This short blog may shine some light for those in relationship with someone who rides a bit higher on the narcissism scale. We are all on the narcissistic spectrum to some extent because in order to be emotionally healthy, we must have an ego. Those who are further up the scale of narcissistic behaviors have not learned to manage their ego so much, and it is running the show.
Codependents and those with more narcissistic tendencies tend to be drawn to one another. They are a perfect fit actually – the narc is in need of affection and attention to feel good about themselves and the codependent is often hyper-focused on others with their identity attached around serving the needs of others to the extent that they disregard their own feelings and emotional needs. So the two fit together like a two puzzle pieces.
Here is why I believe many codependents often fear that THEY are the narcissist… both these ways of dealing with core wounds are based in and OTHER ORIENTATION.
Both are about lack of a healthy sense of self. Each struggles to get a sense of who they truly are and their identities are much defined by the opinions, behaviors and words of others. YES! Almost everyone wants to feel loved and important. Narcissists and codependents create excessive reliance of others’ approval to meet these needs.
According to Melanie Tonia Evans (who I highly encourage you to check out if you suspect you are in a relationship with a narcissist or energy vampire of any kind) says that both these approaches to dealing with emotional wounding share some commonalities: shame, denial, control, dependency and dysfunctional communications and boundaries. These are all just coping mechanisms to trauma of some sort. We ALL have trauma – it’s a wound, a scar where our flexibility is reduced in our response to the world. These responses are symptoms of what we need to heal in ourselves on some level. It’s a gateway.
When we get ready to take responsibility for our own wounds, our own triggers, our reactions in relationships, THEN we can move toward knowing the fullness of who we are, on our own terms rather than based on how others view us. Reliance on the view of others to know ourselves is so precarious! They can’t possibly see us with complete clarity nor can we depend on them to focus on us as their sole mission! Being responsible for how we see ourselves is crucial to our happiness, our relationships and our well-being.
This process is not about ‘becoming’ someone or something. It’s about REVEALING our true light, our true nature that’s been there all along. We don’t need to hide who we are in approval seeking or acceptance by others. We only need this to the extent that we are not giving it to ourselves. Healing isn't about changing who you are. It's about changing how you FEEL about who you are.
If you are reading this, my solid guess is that you are not the narcissist in your relationship. But you do have an opportunity to get on firmer ground with knowing the beautiful essence of who you are, without being reliant on the approval of others of who you are. The great news is that you already have everything you need to this.
Trying to be what is expected. THIS has pretty much been my way of being up to this point in my life. Be what is expected or mostly – be what I ASSUME is expected of me by others. My motivation is simple, if I get it “right”, I will get what it is I am seeking: Love, acceptance, and belonging. The problem with this equation is that I am seeking what I desire everywhere but where it actually must come from… within.
“Stay out of the way.” “I’m busy, go play in the other room.” “Be quiet.” Sometimes these messages we receive early in life are verbal and sometimes just shown to us by example or even just a vibe we feel. My parents were older when I came along and I even though I had two siblings, they were both out of the house by the time I arrived. So much of my time was spent with adults until probably age ten. Older parents are often more adept at having patience but they also might have a certain amount of “I’ve got nothing left in my emotional tank to handle this full strength girl! I need her to go play and be quiet.” Which I became very good at, sometimes.
I seem to have created this equation of meeting expectations to get love very early on. My dad was very athletic in his youth and by being in sports or having athletic accomplishments I received more attention from him, more love. My focus on being athletic has continued well after he was gone, still trying my old method of gaining love and attention by sports or fitness accomplishments.
Mom was busy. Perhaps trying to be what SHE thought was expected of her. Stay out of her way, play on my own and she will love me and give me attention later. While she never said it to me I think the message I got was “Tone your shit down Sandy.” This too is a message I have still hung onto well after she was gone. We all get this message to some extent, even if our parents did the very best they could, most of us learn to suppress parts of ourselves to be accepted and meet the expectations of our parents.
Of course! This pattern I developed continued into my romantic relationships. Over and over and over again. If I can just be what this person wants and expects me to be, they will reward me with their love and acceptance. I kind of see it like riding a merry-go-round on the playground. You get on the “Be what they expect” ride slowly at first. Then as you contort yourself to be what others want, it starts to speed up, going faster and faster as they need you to change in more and more and more ways in order to meet their expectations. Or even worse, if there are multiple people who all expect something different from you at the same time, you start to feel like you’re going to puke as the life gets sucked out of you and you emotionally abandon yourself. Eventually the only option is to let go and get flung off onto the ground. As much as this hurts, you just can’t stay on the “I must meet their expectations of me to get love” ride any longer without losing yourself, and your lunch!
None of this is the other person’s "fault". These other people are simply reflecting back to us our own feelings and view of OURSELVES. If I don’t meet someone’s expectations, I withdraw my own love from myself. I judge myself. The other person didn’t turn away from me… I did.
If you are super practiced at hanging on to the "please others merry-go-round" handle like I am, giving yourself permission to choose yourself and let go of trying to meet another person’s expectations is beyond scary. It’s devastating. The reason it is so horrifying is because we have not found a way to access our own approval, acceptance and love for ourselves and it all rides on this other person’s view of us. The merry-go-round or the other person isn’t what’s causing my pain, it’s my beliefs about what it means about me and my feelings about myself that are the source of my suffering.
So was/is it the real me to be athletic? Of course, that IS a PART of me. Was it the real me to tone my shit down? Yes, that IS a PART of me. Is it the real me to be strong and confident? Indeed, that is a PART of me. Is it the real me to be scared, sad, even confused into seemingly long-term inaction. Yes, this is PART of me too. The integration of all the parts of ourselves, accepting even those parts that are uncomfortable for ourselves and others is what it means to be wholly ourselves. Or maybe that should be HOLY ourselves.
ALL of us are both dark and light. We all have parts of us that we embrace and qualities or parts that we try to deny or hide. When we deny those parts of ourselves we deem “bad” or what Jung called “the Shadow Self”, we will judge those qualities or behaviors in other people. We will run away from being who we are and this is not the kind of running that leads to freedom. Freedom is about feeling safe to be yourself – ALL of yourself. Without fear of being blamed or criticized for it. Others are going to blame and criticize us. That’s just a fact. We have to find a way to not join in on the dog-pile when this comes our way. We ALL mess up, and sometimes in super important moments and this can be hard to give ourselves compassion in those times. Yet, if we don't, we can get very stalled in our journey.
Sometimes other people in our lives, people who are incredibly important to us, have big, even unconscious expectations of us to fit a profile they have created about us in their mind. This is often about what they believe our showing up in that way means about THEM.
When we vary form that profile, as we inevitably will, they can become very uncomfortable and even judge us and actually withdraw their love for us. And again, this is not about the other person, but about how we don’t accept all of OURSELVES when we fall short in some way. The other person in our relationships is always showing us something about ourselves if we are courageous enough to look down there in the darkness.
We all need other people. That’s part of being human. But, when we make meeting the expectations (or assumed expectations) of others our route to feeling loved, it will suck the sweet life right out of you. This has been the most challenging part of my journey to date – learning to choose myself, which can mean letting go of the merry-go-round and getting a pretty devastating bounce on the cement in the aftermath. This takes a great deal of courage for sure because you KNOW it’s going to hurt like hell. It takes time to recover from that kind of damage because you lost a part of yourself on the ride. You have to dig deep to rediscover it within yourself. No one took that part from you, you gave it away in approval seeking & trying to get the love from someone else when you weren’t giving it to yourself.
Tracy McMillan posted a great video on Instagram today about coming home to yourself and what that means. It means we stop looking outside ourselves in other people and other things to gain the approval and acceptance that we seek because we are not giving it to ourselves.
All next week Spencer and I will be diving into this topic on The Double X Factor. I invite you to listen, comment and see if there is anything I am learning on my journey that may be helpful for you to feel less alone. When we shut down parts of who we are to make others more comfortable, we aren't giving the world what we came here to give. Write yourself a permission slip. Remind yourself that it's not only okay to be you, the beautiful, messy, hard, soft, entirety of who you are - it's a must if you want to live your purpose in this life.
The picture above is of Seymour. My sycamore tree. I named him because I talk to him all the time. He is a beautiful, stately, big, strong tree that has been protecting our house, surviving even having his roots trimmed to make room for a new garage and many, many storms in his life. He's resilient for sure.
I was introduced to a very cool tree trimming dude after a recent storm passed through that had left a very large upper branch dangling up high in this tree. I asked what, if anything, does Seymour and other trees in my yard need to be healthy and well cared for and Riley suggested a trim of the lower branches to boost their energy and health.
This tree is pretty important to me and I told the tree trimmer this. He said exactly what I needed to hear to be reassured… “I will take care of it as if it were mine.” Perfect. So, they trimmed off some fairly substantial lower limbs. I cringed as they did it, even though I knew my intention was to care for the tree and help it to be its best – not to hurt it.
Sometimes in our lives, we too have lower branches that are draining our energy. These aren’t “bad” or “wrong” branches (people/circumstances), just lower energies that pull us down a bit and slow us from becoming stronger, more beautiful and whole. Those lower branches of Seymour were an important part of his development. Very needed at the time they came to be part of him. They helped him to become stronger early on.
Some of these lower branches can end up preventing us from being fully healthy emotionally. Cutting them off – ugh. It is often deeply painful and difficult. I don’t know if Seymour feels pain where his lower branches were cut – but I feel some pain for him when I look at them. It takes some getting used to seeing him a bit more "naked" or the way I am used to seeing him.
But then, I look up. I see this massive, amazing feat of nature that looks strong, shapely, majestic and knowing. He is so much more than his cuts, or his removed lower branches that had become a drag on his overall health. Those lower branches didn’t obscure the beauty of the bigger picture of this tree, they simply blocked off some of his own access to his full power. And it is the same with you and I with our own lower branches that drain our energy.
Removing these lower energies (branches) from our lives usually requires some help from those who love us. Doing it on our own and just ripping it off without tools or help - trying to gut it out with willpower, leaves a bigger wound that takes longer to heal and is more susceptible to “infection” and staying open and oozing longer. You can see in the two photos above, one limb removal with tools will likely heal faster than the one left jagged and without help. What does help look like for us humans in these removals?
I tell Seymour daily how even MORE beautiful he is now and that I hope he is healing from his trimming of the lower branches that were draining his energies. I give him a little pat and some love each time I walk by. We must also do this for ourselves as we trim up our lives.
What lower branches do you need to trim from your life? It may be other people or conditions. Or it may be that we need to remove things that we have created internally with mental or emotional habits like damaging thoughts or limiting beliefs. It may be thinking poorly of yourself, it may be beliefs that you hold about yourself that hold you back. What drains our energies may show up as other people, but the root of that manifestation is in our beliefs about ourselves. Our relationship with others is simply a movie screen that shows the relationship we have with ourselves.
Please don’t make this into blaming yourself for any life-sucking situations you may currently be experiencing. Just know that you have the power to be accountable for your role in the conditions and that means you have the power to change it. This is very good news!
Pay attention to what lights you up, when you feel happy, alive and free. Trim off anything you can that is counter to this in your life.
Trimming our lives of the things that drain our energy is not easy. You’ll most likely need some help in the support of a close friend or a professional “trimmer” like a counselor or coach, but do it. Do it because the world needs your full beam energy. We need your light to shine as brightly as possible. That’s how you serve the world.
I do a short radio show with Spencer each week where we choose a topic and chat about it on the path of personal growth. For an upcoming week, she selected the topic of numbing. As often happens, after we select our topic, it comes more into my awareness and it often leads to some valuable insight about myself.
Then I came across a new blog post from Brene’ Brown on the topic of midlife. Amazing, perfectly timed and very, very validating and affirming to say the least. The culmination of these two things got me asking myself a question… how am I numbing myself? I mean, there are the obvious ones that many of us use: food, social media, spending, being overly busy, work, alcohol, drugs. There are also ways we numb that aren’t so obvious like: gossip, perfectionism, being judgmental, blaming, being angry. Because numbing is about avoiding our own evolution that comes from feeling the hard feelings that come with what Dr. Brown calls “unraveling”, I can tell you I have used almost all of these routes at some point in time. Here's why...
I am a woman who has spent most of her life on the run. Running from feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, not being enough in some way, or just wondering “what the hell is ‘wrong’ with me?”. When I’m not running FROM the feelings themselves, I am running TOWARD what I think will ease the pain of these feelings I am trying to dodge.
What arrived for my examination today is some clarity: I use my intimate relationships as a way to numb myself from the feelings of inadequacy I carry around. I focus on care-giving, solving, supporting, to the extreme because if I can just help them be happy – then, I can relax because that mean I am okay, valuable and finally enough.
There are a ton of issues with this approach, here are just what I would say are the top three:
I am a firm believer in something I have heard Oprah verbalize. The Universe is speaking to us. First it whispers and if we don’t pay attention, it gets louder and louder. First you get a pebble upside the head, then a brick, then a brick wall. I additionally know that our bodies follow this approach as well. Our body is always sending us a message of what needs our attention. Right now, my body is getting a little louder with its message. Nothing life-threatening, just trying to get my attention. I think it’s saying “Sandy, you need to take care of you. It’s time to finally learn to love and accept yourself. I’m trying to protect you, but you have to remember who you are and stop running.” As long as I am uber focused on the well-being of someone else or my relationship with them at the expense of myself, I am on the run from my fear of my lack of worthiness with no good finish line in the outcome.
Our self-esteem is within us, it's in there, but sometimes it gets propped up on a faulty foundation of making other people happy. When that foundation is torn away, you get the opportunity to rebuild it, with new updated tools and in the way you really want it to be.
Construction always comes with delays and the trick is to not start thinking that the delays are a refusal for the project to be built. It’s easy to have a day (or ten!) where the idea of loving & accepting ourselves seems like a pipe dream and maybe we think we should just resign ourselves to getting by with the old crappy foundation. But then, the clouds will part a bit and we’ll see that the delay is behind us and we go forward a little bit more.
I know I won’t ever get a certificate of completion on learning to be okay with myself, it’s a process and I’ll continue to unravel my old system of over-giving and discounting myself – but I’m a pretty determined chick & my aim is to shine my light. When we numb our hard feelings, we dim our light. When your numbing method of choice fails to work – you can feel as though your light has faded to black. But that’s simply not possible.
I am super blessed to have a tribe of people in my life who are amazingly supportive, never seem to judge me and just hold space for me while I find my way through my stuff. THESE are people you can lean on without fear of becoming dependent on their approval for your own self-acceptance. That’s been a big lesson for me. Among those in my life who have shown me this grace is Don. He has shown me a lot about how to give someone the space to regain their own footing, yet still be there, cheering them on behind the scenes. It gives the person the opportunity to learn to give themselves the thing only they can give to themselves and have it really stick.
Yes, I see clearly that over care-giving can become a form of numbing, a way to feel like we are enough, a way to “save” others who don’t actually require (or even want) our saving. I see that now. When we over-give to those who are capable of doing it for themselves, we set both them and ourselves up for a lot of pain.
Brene’ Brown says everyone numbs sometimes. Addiction is when we numb chronically & compulsively. So, it only stands to reason then, to stop an addiction to numbing requires a recovery process. If you know anything at all about recovery, you know it is a moment by moment choice to show up for yourself. Becoming the observer of your behavior without judgement and choosing the most loving action you can take in that moment for yourself and for the greater good of all.
I appreciate that my body is trying to get my attention with some uncomfortableness. It is demanding that I do some self-care rather than being consumed with “other-care” for those who will also benefit by caring for themselves. I don’t want to numb my way out of the chance to learn to appreciate myself for who I am and what I came to offer the world. The best way to give to others and be compassionate is not to lose myself, but to 1. Get better at caring for and accepting myself AND 2. Caring for and accepting others. I have some catching up to do on the first part.
Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front: I am not a licensed psychologist, scientist or psychiatrist. These are indeed, just words from a chick who’s on her path and has had a lot of life experience in relationship studies – some of it, pretty rough study. When I come up against something challenging or painful, I try to learn from it, learn about it, and grow.
Now that we have that out of the way, I have a theory that I find to be pretty solid in my own experience that I am hopeful you will find helpful. Change is inevitable. Everything changes – it’s gonna happen and its level of difficulty is on a spectrum from easier to somewhat hard. Most often, change does not stick. Its sustainability is rocky because often we try to change others or ourselves out of fear. More on this in a bit.
Transformation on the other hand, is NOT inevitable. It’s a choice and it’s much more permanent. Think cocoon to butterfly. There anin’t no goin’ back into the cocoon once you transform into the mariposa. Transformation is way, way harder than change – actually it totally sucks for the most part on the way there. It requires you to unravel things that you have all cross wired in your thinking, beliefs, emotions, & your body. It’s facing down the demons you have created for yourself and exorcising them. You look right into the valley of your own shadow side. Things we all have and acquire on our journey, but often there comes a point when these cross wired systems and avoiding our shadow no longer serves us. It’s super painful, and for this reason most will choose the easier route, of either staying the same or making a less painful change versus a transformation.
Here is my theory; change doesn’t usually stick because it comes from fear or from those emotional states on the right hand side of the above diagram. In order to truly transform, the emotional driver must be from the higher feeling states on the left – like love. Only love is powerful enough to cause transformation. Let’s see if I can give you an example or two…
When you nag, shame, blame, critisize someone into changing their behavior, does it seem to work? I mean does the other person say “Gee, I feel so motivated by your badgering me into submission – I will gladly do what you ask.” Nagging, complaining, blaming - these feelings have their roots in fear. Fear that our hopes won’t be fulfilled. Fear that the other person’s behavior reflects on us in some way that we are not enough. Fear that we are vulnerable and we want to avoid the hard feelings that are coming up in us. Blaming and demanding change from other people is just us trying to avoid our own difficult feelings.
Conversely, what if we approached this same situation from love, hopefulness, and empowerment? We would open up a discussion and talk about what we feel and experience when the other person is behaving in a way that brings up hurt in us. We’d approach it not from blame and trying to shame the other person into being what we need, but from an empowered, responsible adult angle instead of our powerless, wounded child. So many times it's not the conversation in the moment that is causing our pain but a lifetime of a similar conversations that gets triggered and we aim our pain at the person in front of us.
Now, let’s take this one step further and apply it to our own inner mean girl. Nagging, shaming or any of the emotions on right hand side of the chart above in our self-talk don’t work any better on ourselves than they do on other people! You cannot shame yourself into transformation. Only love is powerful enough to handle that kind of gigantic shift. Telling ourselves how fat or unattractive or stupid or whatever crap judgement you lay on yourself – MIGHT get us to change for a little bit, but it won’t be sustainable. Shame is not a transformation facilitator. Weighing ourselves daily to see if we have earned the right to feel good about ourselves… that’s shaming yourself into staying in line. It’s relying on externals to know we are worthy and those externals are flaky! They are unstable and have no loyalty to you!
I recently heard relationship expert Ellyn Bader say in an interview with Jayson Gaddis that we should never say what we NEED from our partner. NEED repels. It can be shaming and it indicates that you have an expectation that the other person is responsible for your happiness. Think about it for a second… if your partner says “I need you to talk to me respectfully” they just told you that you evidently aren’t doing so currently, and this is going to likely bring up shame or guilt in you. It makes it almost impossible for the other person to give this to you generously. (I encourage you to listen to the link above after you read this Sandy Chat for some insightful relationship stuff on this topic!)
What if instead your partner said something like “When you talk to me in an angry tone, my experience of that is that I feel disrespected. I hope that you care about my feelings.” No need, no blame, simply what you are feeling and experiencing and what you are hoping for. Notice that hopefulness is on the LEFT hand side of our chart above. It has the power to lead to transformation instead of just change. It’s about staying vulnerable enough to state what feelings YOU are experiencing - without blame or judgement of the other person because YOUR feelings are YOUR responsibility. This will require you to get clear with your OWN feelings and be willing to be vulnerable rather than blame and shame the other person. Our feelings aren't "wrong", so discounting them in yourself or others is not helpful and only adds more shame to the equation. How we feel and experience people and conditions IS our responsibility, and making those feelings bad or wrong can cause them to stick around for a very long time.
You won’t be clear headed enough in the heat of the moment to think this clearly! You have to practice when you’re not in the middle of an argument or difficult situation. This is big: stating what we want, rather than a focus on what we DON’T want will go a really long way to helping you not only in your communication with people you are in relationship with, but also with your self-talk.
When we talk to ourselves from a needy, demanding sort of place, change may be possible for a short time, but we don’t transform out of that kind of fear based place. “If only” is a needy, victim mentality place that gives our power away. When we focus on what we don’t want, we get more of that very thing. We end up creating the very conditions we are opposed to.
“No matter where you go there you are.” This was a favorite line of an old friend of mine and it’s really all about this same idea of change and transformation. You can change your address, change your job, change who you sleep next to – but unless you TRANSFORM you will simply be taking your same junk to the new location or the new relationship. Until you transform your relationship with YOURSELF, you will repeat your same reality over and over again, even if you change the players or the places.
I get it why most people will choose to change without transforming their relationship with themselves –it’s ridiculously hard!!! You have to stand in the face of the storms that come at you over and over again, wave after wave. Your own shame shit storm will try to beat you down and there may even be those that you love who will toss some serious shame at you for not meeting their expectations or needs. This is probably why most people will take the easier route and just lose their freakin’ minds or give up and settle in to a life being less than they had hoped for. Believe me, losing my mind along with other options based in fear, have certainly sounded easier at times for me than to keep aiming at transformation of how I feel about myself. Running away and joining the circus was an option I seriously considered!
What I’ve realized is that everything that has happened FOR me is a perfect opportunity for me to learn to give myself what will fill the empty parts of me. To not need externals, other people to fill me up and to know that I am okay, enough, worthy - just as I am. Then! when I come together with someone, they are the cherry on top rather than my needing them to fill up my self-created inner emptiness.
What if the super hard stuff that is happening is exactly what has to happen for my transformation to fill up my own empty spaces, so I have that in my backpack for the rest of my journey? What if my transformation into shining my light fully is what helps someone else to find the courage to find their light and shine it? What if it has all been about helping me have a better, more loving relationship with myself? That makes taking myself through hell and back seem worth it!
Shaming others or ourselves into being different in some way doesn’t work. Have you noticed??? Forgiveness, Love, acceptance, freedom – these are the only forces powerful enough to facilitate transformation. Tell your inner mean girl “Thanks for your input, I got this, you can do sit down now sweetie.” It will take telling her this many times, again and again till she gets the message. Actually all she wants is love, so fight the temptation to talk smack to her in retaliation and she will relax much sooner.
A biggie is coming clear for me recently and I can’t say that this realization has happened very often in my life. That clarity that the thing I have been complaining about in someone else is the very same thing I am doing to them. I suppose most of the time my righteous anger wins out and I just stay focused on the “wrong-doings” of the other person. I mean, can't they SEE how "wrong" they are and how "right" I am??
The above quote kind of makes me say "Ugh." If I sit with it though... I can see for sure that the way I feel I am treated in relationship is also how I treat myself on many levels. As I mentioned to someone recently who said they felt they were in an abusive relationship, "How is your own relationship with yourself?" They admitted to being pretty abusive in their own self-talk.
Now, intellectually, I totally get the concept that other people are our mirrors, that they are often reflecting something about ourselves back to us or that they are offering us information about ourselves in some way. In fact I have written a Sandy Chat on that very topic and how others can also reflect to us that we need to treat ourselves with more love and care. Very recently I have come to the eye-opening awareness that I have been trying to change another person – by complaining to, and about them, Now get this…I've been railing about how they are trying to change ME! I have this mantra that other people’s feelings about me and my choices are not my responsibility – that they choose those. YET! I have been upset at how their behavior causes me to feel. Hello double standard. Hello mirror. Ironic, ain't it.
So I am asking myself this question… do I really want to be responsible for how I feel? Or is my real desire for the other person to change? Dang. Truth – I want them to change then life would be awesome. Breaking news… this just in… you can’t change other people.
I read a great blog post on this idea by Dr. Margaret Paul and this was pretty eye opening. If I need someone, anyone else, to change in order for me to be okay, I am not taking responsibility for myself. What if that other person never changes? I must either accept them as they are, or leave the situation – but blaming, complaining, judging, or my favorite: being a victim of that other person and the conditions – none of these things are being a loving adult to myself or to the other party.
But this is what we do isn’t it. We focus on the things the other person needs to change in order for us to feel okay. If they would just change, be different, if only they did or said X. I have not always been super great about owning that I do this and it has caused me plenty of pain and suffering due to my own thoughts – not due to the choices of others. It's not what is happening that is the cause of our pain, our guilt, our anger. It is the MEANING we put on things that causes it all.
Giving Away Our Power
“It’s about standing in your own light.” This phrase has been passed on to me something like a zillion times by my coach Joy. I’ll be super honest… I really had no idea what she meant by it at first. I looked through my notes from our sessions I’m sure it’s in there damn near every other time. More truth… I’ve even Googled it to try and really understand the importance and meaning of this sentence.
What I am coming to understand is that our “light” is that Divine spark within each of us. It’s what we came into this world to give. We all have it and free will dictates that it is our choice how much to fan it. We can let it remain a spark or we can create a flame, a beam of light, our power.
I recently heard Deepak Chopra make some statements about how we give our power away and how to reclaim it. “We give up our power when we shrink to other people and circumstances.” So this speaks to wanting other people to change so we can feel okay. If you think about it, complaining, blaming and judging feels more powerful than being depressed or a victim for sure – yet it is not nearly as powerful as love, hopefulness, empowerment, freedom. So, we can do better if we wake up to how we are dimming ourselves when we make others responsible for our happiness.
He also talked about two of the biggest ways we give away our power and dim our light… putting ourselves and others in a box – a.k.a. labeling. Secondly by having dualistic thinking. As in, it’s this or it’s that. It’s black or it’s white. I’m “right” and you’re “wrong”. These two mindsets: putting ourselves and others in a box and believing it’s this or it’s that – cause us to feel TRAPPED. When we feel trapped we will either step into our light, or we will dim ourselves.
Our internal power comes from standing in the center of our own lives, taking responsibility for OUR side of the street. We must stay conscious and awake, speak our truth in a loving way and know our worth – simply because we were born.
When we blame, accuse, label, and go to sleep in our lives… we give away our power. We step right into victim mentality where we are TRAPPED and at the will of others and circumstances. Here’s the thing… we are NEVER at any other person or circumstances will, but when we focus on how other people or the circumstances must change in order for us to be okay, we are not taking care of ourselves. It’s simply an attempt to not feel the difficult feelings we have about OURSELVES. If I’m busy blaming you or complaining about you, I get to avoid becoming self-actualized and feeling vulnerable.
If we are really ready to be responsible for ourselves and our feelings, we’ll have to let go of focusing on the stuff other people are doing that we view as “wrong” and supposedly making it impossible for us to be okay. This is far from an easy thing to do. When our set-point becomes fear, anger, feeling like a victim, etc. - it takes some real conscious effort to break that addiction and you can only do this for yourself, no one can do it for you - although having a supportive tribe is amazingly helpful.
Yeah, all the things I complain about someone else doing that caused me pain and suffering… I’ve done those same things either to myself or to them. I’m trying to just observe this without judgement so that I can learn from it and not go into kicking my own backside – which is how the cycle typically goes.
It’s a hard habit to break. I have a big intention to drop blame from my relationships and still, I find myself going right there and before I know it I’m on a rant of how the other party is so “wrong”. If I can grab the wheel and get myself back on the road when I’m veering off into the blame ditch, I very often can find a glimpse of information about myself being shown through the behavior of the other person. Either something I too am doing, or that I need to take better care of myself in some way. As long as I need anyone else to change in order to feel okay or have a better experience, I am a victim and I don’t think that’s what I came to this world to be. I am Sandy Edie after all. ;-)
I’ll admit it, I have played the role of a “fixer”. If you ever watched the t.v. show The Blacklist, this role was known as “the cleaner”. Red would make a big mess, then this small unassuming looking woman (pictured above) would come in and clean up the whole bloody murder scene. She is small, but mighty!
For me, the fixing or cleaning kicks in when someone is unhappy, angry, disillusioned, feeling lower energy states either towards me or in general. I not only believe that I CAN fix it, it’s also my responsibility… because somehow, it’s my fault that they feel this way. This belief is limiting. Now! Let me be clear, it’s not limiting to have the belief and confidence that you CAN fix something for someone or to want to for that matter. The limiting part is in that last segment – that it’s my responsibility to fix it for them and that it is somehow my fault, even when it’s their stuff.
I read this AA quote that is so true – “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” It’s a recipe for a resentment to develop in us when we expect that we are responsible for how someone else feels, that we expect them to respond to our efforts. When we inevitably aren’t able to fix things for those we want so desperately to make happy, it sets us up to resent them. Fixing, repairing, negotiating and even fighting and defending in order for others to be happy, robs them of the experience they need to find their own power and how to access it. Our fixing intentions come from a wish to be loving, but the result is not what we intended. Not even close. Yes, we can indeed contribute to someone's happiness. We cannot be responsible for it. Our happiness is fully the responsibility of each of us. A choice we get to make.
Let’s say there is a beautiful vase that was given to you as a gift. You love it, you love the way you feel when you look at it, it actually causes you to want to up-level the rest of your environment because it is so amazingly beautiful to you. You have had it for maybe half your lifetime.
Then, some things happen that distract your gaze and you forget to appreciate the beauty of your gift and it accidentally falls from the shelf. There is some damage to it. The “fixer” will do whatever it takes to make it all better! It may have a slight chip in it, but you return it to the shelf and to appreciating it, enjoying it, loving it. All is well, you can relax when the vase is okay, safe from harm and repaired.
But these falls start to happen more frequently to the beautiful vase. They seem to be happening regularly. The Fixer will even abandon themselves and other things that matter to them and invest nearly all their attention into preserving the beautiful gift and trying to prevent the falls from happening. The vase is starting to look a little rough at this point! But it’s still so important to you, it’s made an amazing difference in your life and damaged or not – you still love it. You’ll “make it work.”
Then the big challenge comes. When the vase seems to have been almost intentionally broken. Someone was careless and while it seems as though it was salvageable up to this point, it now lays on the floor in a zillion broken shards. You can’t believe this has happened. It may even seem to you that someone picked up the damn thing and threw it against the wall on purpose. And it may seem that their view is that you left the vase in a vulnerable position ...and so you made them do it. Who broke the vase doesn’t really even matter to you at this point, although… you take on the responsibility for it, because you see its protection as your role.
Enter… what I’m calling “the fixers dilemma": you can’t fix this. You are powerless to make it all okay. Yet your identity, what you DO, is wrapped up in you fixing things! When you can’t – it challenges you deeply to find another part of yourself. Accepting that you can’t fix it, that you are powerless to fix it because you really don’t have power over other people and their choices – this is a ginormous challenge internally. (I speak from experience on this one.) It's super tempting to just ignore this invitation to dig deep and grow your self-acceptance muscle. This is the route many will choose. And that's okay. It's just not my path.
Being unable to make things okay puts the fixer smack in the face of the very thing she does all her fixing in an attempt to avoid – she is hoping to avoid feeling unloved, not accepted. Believing that if she can just make it okay for others, they will understand her, love her.
Now her fixing must be aimed inward, at herself, as she must learn to live with knowing that she has let some people down in life and that there are those who will even wish her ill will as a result. These may even be the very people that she loves with all her heart and soul. Yet here's the thing… this will happen even if she DOES fix the vase! No matter what we do, there will be those who judge us, blame us due to their own stuff and abandoning ourselves to try and avoid this leads to a shit-ton of suffering for everyone involved. We abandon ourselves when we let their low opinions of us – become our own opinions of us.
The beautiful vase is broken. She cannot fix it. No matter how much she has invested in it. No matter how hard she tries. Accepting these facts, is the work now. Finding her own inner “vase”, by holding space for herself is a key I think. Be with the feelings that you work so hard to avoid, Love them - yes, love those feelings that's why the have arrived. So you can make peace with them and let them pass through. While your inner “vase” may look a little dinged up, it has a light that cannot be extinguished. Look past the chips and dings and focus on the beauty that remains. It's in there among the shards.
When we take our strengths too far, they can become a weakness. Empathy, compassion, a desire to help. These are all extremely beautiful gifts that many of us love to share with the world. It seems to me, especially women, seem to sometimes take this beautiful gift of empathy and turn up the volume on it so loud that it actually distorts it, and it can become self-sabotage. Especially if we have even a little dose of low self-esteem on board.
I was recently listening to a interview between Matt Kahn and Christiane Northrup on the subject of emotional energy vampires. Matt said something that I had to rewind and replay several times. It was basically; People with high degrees of empathy, can sometimes have a co-dependency on the low energy of other people. They place their own value on the ability to make things A-Okay for those who aren’t doing it for themselves. Often we can perceive other people’s lower emotions as their opinions of us. We believe that when THEY feel better, then WE can feel better, accepted, okay. We can relax.
Ya know, I think I’ve spent a lifetime believing that when someone is unhappy, grumpy, blaming me, you name it – it was MY responsibility to “FIX” it for them. That if only I can get THEM to feel better, then I’LL feel better. This endless effort to cheer people up, help them with their pain, and all very often to the point of abandoning myself and what I wanted or what was best for me. I no longer believe that this is the path to love.
Even those who don’t seem to want the best for us – when they don’t understand us we can take on this responsibility to “FIX” that view they have of us. Explaining, justifying, defending, rationalizing - these are all attempts to FIX. We all just want to feel validated I suppose. But the most empowered woman is the one who no longer needs validation.
Now, I could decide to try and make some adjustments to my behavior, and just stop taking this undo responsibility upon myself, but this is like repairing a leaking roof with a bucket. The drive to take responsibility for the feelings of others is a result – not a cause. We have to go deeper. We have to repair the roof – not just let it keep leaking and cleaning up the mess. At the core of over-doing our level of responsibility is a lack of feeling accepted and loved and until we give this to ourselves, no amount of making things okay for others will ever fill that bottomless hole. Loving ourselves and having boundaries is how we ultimately repair the leaking roof once and for all.
I must warn you: you may have accumulated some people in your life are just fine and dandy with you taking responsibility for their happiness. When you disrupt this system that gives these other people the ability to draw off your energy – they are NOT going to be on board!!! This will be challenging if you are used to depending on their happiness to provide YOUR happiness. Expect push-back. Plan for it. And their push-back may cause you to fall back into your old pattern. Giving yourself grace in these times can be really challenging. Just do your best to be kind to yourself and remember it's a new practice and that takes time. They don't call it "practice" for nothin'!
Matt Kahn also offered something on this shifting of the responsibilities that you may find helpful like I did… Courage is where we reclaim our power. When we know on some level that there are things we need to stop doing: like enabling others or over-giving to the wrong people, taking care of people who are actually emotionally unsafe for us - but you aren’t ending these things due to trying and please others…. You dim your light. This is robs the world of something only YOU can give – YOUR happiness, YOUR joy, YOUR light. To be the force of love you were meant to be, you can’t leave yourself out of the love equation! You must care for you as well as you care for others.
To bring yourself to the point of being able to release your need to FIX and take responsibility that doesn’t belong to you for things that are not yours, takes some heavy emotional lifting. You can’t rush it – even though you reeeeeeally want to hurry up and get past the pain of the push-back and the feelings of others being angry or unhappy with your choice to make your own spiritual evolution a priority. You'll have to make friends with those uncomfortable feelings and that seems so counter-intuitive! Those feelings are just information and once you let them come through, you can move forward again.
Dr. Christian Northrup says “If someone is mean to you, it’s not your job to just take it. It’s also not your job to change anyone. Just clean up what is yours.” In this case of taking responsibility for other people’s happiness (who often take zero responsibility for it themselves) your side of the street is to stand in your own light and love yourself and others, and allow them the GIFT of learning to find their happiness themselves. It’s actually the only way they can ever really sustain it – if they themselves learn how to develop it. When we take on the job of doing it for them, we actually slow their growth and we FOR SURE stunt our own. The reason we are responsible only for ourselves is because it is the only thing we can actually control. There is a difference in being responsible FOR and responsible TO others.
Along with those who will give you loads of push-back on changing the game, there is this other amazing thing that happens. There are also people in your life who support you making the decision to stand in your own light. Your tribe, those people who bring out your best, cause you to expand, who add to your life. Until you make the shift to power up your own light, you will often be hard-pressed to find these folks in your life. They are there… just waiting for you to choose you.
Learn more about a one day retreat for women on their path!
My friend and guide Joy Miley is hosting a retreat on Saturday April 21st. For more details, click here to go to her website. It is a collaborative experience of learning how to not only have your own back, but also find your tribe. Tribe = people who are FOR you and just waiting for you to choose you. I'll be there!
P.J., she was named to honor her predecessor – Pebbles, who was perhaps my original soul mate. So Pebbles Junior was shortened to P.J. – we knew it was perfect when we stumbled upon it in searching for a name for the third Sheltie I have been fortunate enough to have been part of my life.
We went to her birth home, which was slightly scary! A house crawling with two litters of puppies in the kitchen. I got down on the floor and waited to see who would engage of this pack of so many. Only one came over and hung out to say “Hey! It’s me!” and she came home with us.
Her string of physical challenges started on the ride home! Car sickness. Dang. Didn’t prepare for that. Oh well. Do what you can to comfort her, puke on me is just one of those things. Over her 13 years as a member of the “Hansen Herd”, P.J. developed a long list of physical challenges. Seemingly with more lives than a cat – she would rise up time after time of visiting deaths door.
The list kept by our vets is lengthy of all the things she has recovered from and baffled us with. We would find a remedy, a work around and she’d move forward again and again. Till this past month. Till today.
It’s interesting, when the end appears to be approaching, you might ask yourself “Did I do enough? Did I give her a good life? Did I give more than I took?” But those thoughts are making it about me. So I shifted my focus to “Is she in pain?” “What is best for her?” “How can I help her?” "How can we make her most comfortable?"
Some probably don’t understand a life as a woman who didn’t give birth. And I probably don’t fully comprehend what it is like to have children – I’ll give you that. It’s hard to imagine though, that I could love more unconditionally than I do with my kids who happen to have fur and paws. They all teach me a lot about how to love unconditionally. How to “Be the dog”. From P.J. I learned a lot about how to keep rising, not matter what.
P.J… a highly anxious, super smart, loyal, obedient, resilient as f#$k girl was also incredibly shy. This last characteristic made her the most unlikely of leaders. Yet, she was the alpha of the pack of the four that have been together for over six years now.
She was loving, wanted to please, so beautiful and so skidish. Friends would come to the house and be so proud if by chance they convinced her to allow them to pet her. She overcame a lot of really hard stuff in her life. Some say that dogs are like their owners – I can only hope like hell that is the case even to some small fraction.
The idea that energy never dies, it just changes form - that the being who was with you for part of your journeys is still there, with you even when they have left their physical form, it's comforting to think today. She was as ready as she could be to go, she was tired and worn out and she slipped away peacefully and quickly with some beautiful assistance.
Thank you Peej, for being in all our lives. The honor was all ours. I’m glad you found us and came to be the unlikely leader of the pack. Helping you go was ridiculously hard, but we certainly owed you that dignity. You made a big difference in my life and I learned so much from you.
All this week on The Double X Factor program I do on KMA, we are discussing the topic of Forgiveness. This is certainly my intention as I write this Sandy Chat today. To my way of thinking, when we make another person responsible for our happiness, we have lost our way. This is because when we blame, we have lost our true loving hearts to fear.
I have felt on the receiving end of painful blame to be sure. It felt as if there was a score card being kept of all my transgressions and the evidence of my making “wrong” choices. BUT! Here is the thing!!! The very fact that I noticed that there was score keeping taking place, means I AM DOING THAT SAME DAMN THING IN RETURN! I am keeping score of how someone else is score keeping on me... and back and forth it goes. Ei-yi-yi.
I recently heard Abraham-Hicks tell someone who claimed that they believed a relationship was about two whole people coming together and this person was noticing that the other person was not showing up whole. The response was “If you think it takes two whole people to create a good relationship – you gotta be one of them. If you are noticing the flaw in the other person, that means you have that same flaw.” Wowzer. Projection, described quite beautifully in this article by Martha Beck, is real. What I've discovered is that while I was feeling unjustly blamed by another, I was indeed blaming them for being unjust towards me. You spot it, you got it.
Score keeping is easy. You just keep a tally of all the times you felt the other person was out of line or wronged you and then you puke it back out to them every time a new infraction comes along. So you can say “SEE! You are wrong and I am a victim of your choices. I am a victim and you are my persecutor.” The thing is, finding the flaw or lack in others is NOT the path to liking what you see in yourself and the reason is, focusing on the flaw or lack in others is really about how you see yourself.
Forgiveness takes tremendous strength. I heard Anne Lamott once say that forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. It doesn’t necessarily mean you want to have lunch with that person, but if you keep hitting back you stay trapped in the nightmare. For my money, the reason forgiveness takes so much strength is because until you give it to YOURSELF, no matter how crappy the thing is that the other person did, you won’t be free enough to forgive. You are imprisoned by your blame. If you can forgive yourself for being imperfect, "failing", stumbling - also all known as being human, THEN you can do it for just about anyone else. It starts with you forgiving you.
Someone else may have done or said something super nasty that was or seems it was aimed right at you, but the starting point there is in forgiving yourself for tolerating the poor treatment. Knowing you were doing the best you could at the time. Forgiving yourself for YOUR part in what took place because that is the only part you have the opportunity to do something about going forward. This shifts the story from “somebody did something to me” to “This was my part in it and I’m learning from it”. You just went from being a victim, to a creator with that shift.
Forgiveness puts you back in charge of your life because instead of waiting for what has happened to somehow change, you make a conscious choice to go first. In the lyrics of a song by Johnny Lange, “You could waste your whole life waiting for that mountain to move…But its waiting on you…You got to make it move.” For me, that mountain is things like blame, regret, anger, fear, shame, guilt – any lower energy frequency or lower state of consciousness. Those lower energies become mountains in our path if we choose to stay in those states of mind. When we set an intention to forgive, we stop waiting for the feeling to go away due to the other person or condition changing and decide instead that peace is more important than the score card we are keeping.
Love and appreciation are said to be the two most powerful feeling states we can aim for. So what if instead of blaming or keeping score we just chose to love and appreciate the tough conditions and people that are bound to come into our experience? What if you made this your forgiveness mantra:
I love you with all that I am, for the opportunity you give me and have given me to discover who I am.
Thank you for the fun.
Thank you for the growth.
Thank you for the love.
Thank you for the challenges.
You might have to say this many times each day if this is someone you want to keep in your life or a condition you can't eliminate immediately! Remind yourself - The other person or condition isn’t “wrong” and neither am I. There is a saying that goes “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?” I choose happy. My happiness is my responsibility and when I get clear on that, I can bring it and myself into my relationships already whole. What I'm learning is that forgiveness is part of the road to happiness for me. Give it a try and see if you find it is true for you too.
Women's Retreat Update!
"Who's Got Your Back Part 1" is the working title of the one day women's retreat we are currently planning. It will be held in Omaha (location to be announced soon) on March 24th.
The spirituality of living in your light and trusting in your tribe will be the focus of the talks, activities - even dancing! More details in the next Sandy Chat.
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!