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.
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!