Thursday, February 28, 2013

How I Learned about Relationships with Other People

For a long time I kind of disagreed with the saying in recovery communities, "Act as if..."  It means you can act like a courageous, responsible adult even if you don't feel like it.  It means that if you act like one long enough, you will start to actually be one.

In my heart I really thought that I needed to work out my "issues" first and that then I really would be the way I wanted to be.  I worked on changing my thinking which did indeed change my emotions and therefore changed my behavior.  It does work.  But it's really, really slow. 

Since I didn't actually know how a courageous, responsible adult acts, I was a little lost anyway.  So I consulted people who seemed to have good relationships with other people and who were farther along in recovery and then I worked at applying what I learned.  For example, along the way I learned that when I stopped thinking of myself as a victim of other people, I stopped getting mad at people.  "Victim thinking" caused me to feel hopeless and helpless when I wasn't and caused me to believe the only solution to my problems were to somehow make other people do what I wanted.

Finally I surrendered to the truth - I didn't actually know how to behave in relationships.  I just reacted emotionally.  I felt happy when I thought I was being approved of and was extremely unhappy when I thought I was being disapproved of.  I was happy when they acted like I wanted them to and very unhappy when they acted in ways I didn't like.  So I began to collect information from other people and I read stuff.  I also went to counseling.

Little by little I learned how courageous, responsible adults behaved in relationships.  For example, I learned that when someone criticizes you, you don't have to go straight up in the air and criticize them back.  In fact, that strategy just leads to fighting and no solutions.  I learned that you can just listen (even though your emotions are trying to get you to attack).  It is a skill that can be learned if you are willing to put your back into it - keeping your mouth shut, that is.  You will never, ever regret learning to zip your lip.  When I did that, it gave me the opportunity to "act as if..."

I collected a lot of knowledge.  I wrote it down.  I practiced (and I still practice).  I make mistakes but clean them up as quickly as I can.  I am still learning.  Every day I get a little more comfortable "acting as if..."  I am a courageous, responsible adult.

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