January 2020: Choices
Welcome to a new year and a new decade! As I noted in last month’s blog, this is an ideal time to take stock of one’s patterns and set about changing things up. And in true (ironic) fashion, I was presented with an opportunity to do so for myself.
One of my patterns involves communication hiccups. Relationships of any kind are tricky. People need varying degrees of space and/or closeness. Some like frequent contact, others are “lower maintenance” shall we say. Introverts tend to prefer less direct forms of communication like texts and emails. Extroverts lean towards in-person and phone/video chats. Add to that, there is the full spectrum of social media options; providing plenty of opportunities for connection as well as miscommunication and misunderstanding.
When I am pushed away (aka given a boundary), my default processor wonders what I did wrong or what is wrong with me. In a recent situation, I was able to stop the negative self-examination and instead consider where the other person might be coming from such as self-preservation.
We tend to push/pull away, or more clearly set boundaries, as a form of self-protection for both healthy and unhealthy reasons. When I took a step back, I could differentiate between pulling back and pushing away. Pulling back might indicate a change in interests whereas pushing someone away (if not due to a definite dislike) could be rooted in a fear of getting hurt. We may be scared to invest, be vulnerable, or fully show up because we fear rejection. In that case, the shift has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the other person.
Once again, I had to remind myself that how a person acts or what they say is first and foremost about them—not me. When I shifted my focus off myself, I could see hurt from the past offering protection from future pain. I could also zoom out, so-to-speak, and look at the larger context in which the communication hiccup occurred—personalities, life stressors, personal histories, and the entire relationship—not just the perceived slight against me.
This shift in focus completely changed how I understood the situation and hence my reaction. It allowed me to choose to respond seeing their hurt instead of assuming the worst of myself. This also meant I could acknowledge and operate from my strengths. While being pushed away never feels good, I am grateful for the opportunity and ability to appreciate the bigger picture. It allowed me to break the pattern of self-aberration to see the good in both myself and the other person.
Breaking the pattern gave me choices. And I chose to honour the delicate balance of respecting a boundary without pulling away or striking back. I did not need to retaliate for my own self-preservation. After all, this wasn’t about me. Honouring who I am gave me the option to keep showing up as opportunities (with respect to boundaries) allowed.
Most of all, I continue to be amazed at the rewarding difference made by simply stopping default behaviours—such as negative self-examination. That never helps anyone. It is one thing to own our flaws (along with our strengths) and quite another to assume blame and shame. May you experience a delightful discovery in your own efforts to break patterns and give yourself choices.