Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Taking Care of Myself in Relationships and with People in General

After learning to take care of myself physically and emotionally, my spiritual mother began to teach me about other people and how to be in relationships ranging from the person at the checkout counter to my spouse.  I'm pretty sure I will not be finished with this learning process in this lifetime.

I still attend meetings in both recovery programs.  I still especially need to get information and hear sharing from other people in order to continue to change my part in interactions with others.

Most of my trouble with people came from my fear that I would be hurt.  When others judged and criticized me, my feelings were hurt and I fought back.  Of course, there are other ways people could hurt me and I feared that possibility also. 

First of all I learned that there were a myriad of ways I could take care of myself around other people.  Up until that point I had believed that the only way to take care of myself was to make other people change.  It turns out that making other people change is completely impossible.  No wonder I was chronically upset!

I was taught that after I've prayed about a situation I have going on with another person and talked to a wise person, it's perfectly acceptable to ask for a change in the other person's behavior - if I ask in a way that has no elements of demand, criticism, or judgment.  (That can be difficult!)  I was also taught that asking once - or at the most twice - was the limit for the number of times to ask.  I was told that beyond twice was unhealthy; that I was trying to control the other person instead of taking responsibility for my own feelings and desires.

If I am truly being harmed, I must consider the possibility of ending the interaction with the other person - either temporarily or permanently.  But sometimes I wasn't really being harmed - I was just taking offense when I was misinterpreting the communication I was receiving.  I realized that sometimes I was unconsciously putting myself in a position to be hurt because I was so narrowly focused on what I wanted instead of caring about the other person's well being as well as my own.

My teacher also pointed out that everyone has their own rules.  One of the major problems human being have, she said, was that we all thought our own rules were the only right ones and that everyone knew what the right ones were.  When people were not behaving as we thought they should, we believed that we should straighten them out.  Actually, she said, no one's "rules" are exactly the same, and there are a lot of "good rules" that are different from other "good rules." 

The concept of solving my own problems without trying to change anyone else was totally new to me.  So my teacher had to remind me over and over again.  I had a lot of trouble with the "rules" thing.  I wanted people to follow mine and I was offended when they chastised me for not following theirs.  It was a hugely new concept that for most part, there were no universal rules.

She kept encouraging me to look within and discover what I believed the rules were and where I had learned them.  Then she encouraged me to explore what values and "rules" I really wanted.  For example, my self-searching and exploring eventually lead to my belief that I wanted love, peace and compassion for everyone as well as myself to guide my actions.  I began to feel deeply that I could live by those values more than I could arbitrary rules.

So, with those values in mind, I found it pretty hard to judge other people as "bad."  When they judged me, I reminded myself that they were just going by their rules. 

I have found that living by those values is complicated and requires lots of prayer and guidance from my spiritual community.  So far, though, I haven't accumulated any lasting resentments, I have very little shame, and I usually don't take offense when others judge me by their rules.  Boy, is it ever a lot more peaceful inside my head.

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