Monday, November 23, 2009

Oh, goody.

I realized this morning that my negative focus this week (which is apparently why I chose this picture, another imperfect attempt to capture the beautiful umbrellas of San Antonio) may well be due to something someone said to me a week ago. I had made a flippant remark about my mom, and a friend suggested I might need to let go of my anger.

My immediate thoughts were all defensive: What anger? I let go of that a long time ago! And I THOUGHT I had let go of her remark, but in reality it planted itself inside me as a sort of niggling guilt that my shadow was showing and I had failed again; so all this negativity began leaking out in other ways.

With all this self-criticism, I must have been aware at some sub-surface level all week that there had to be some truth in her remark, or I wouldn't have felt so defensive. So reading David Richo's chapter called "People are Not Loving and Loyal All the Time" really rang a whole bunch of bells with me this morning. On the off chance that they might be helpful for you as well, I'm going to share some of his observations here.

The first is about the FACE of ego -- I mentioned this earlier, but here's more on how it affects our relationships:

Fear: I am afraid that I will not survive if everyone does not love me, and this is how I am a source of suffering to myself.
Attachment: I am attached to a very specific version of what I am owed, and this is how I am a source of suffering to myself.
Control: I need to control others' reactions to me, and this is how I am a source of suffering to myself.
Entitlement: I believe I am entitled to love and loyalty from everyone, and insist on it, an this is how I am a source of suffering to myself.

(Note: in this case, fear and control seem to have been my major issues). Thankfully he goes on to tell us how we can work with this stuff:

I am letting go of fear by showing more love and finding excitement in life's challenges.
I am letting go of attachment to my version of how others should act, and I accept the given of life that not everyone will be loving, truthful, honest, caring, or loyal to me all the time.
I am letting go of control and let others love or dislike me as they choose.
I am letting go of my insistence that I be loved and respected by everyone, and I choose to focus instead on being loving and respectful toward everyone I meet.

Here's what Richo has to say about acceptance:

It is a given of relationships that the five A's (attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, allowing) may not consistently come our way and certainly not to the extent we would wish. An unconditional yes to this fact about our partner upgrades us from a fairy-tale mentality to adult realization. As we kindly accept the reality of others' inadequacy, our own needs begin to change. We no longer need what cannot be had: "I let go of wanting what isn't here now." We align our needs with the available resources in our partner. Paradoxically, as we reduce our unrealistic expectations, our partner feels less pressured and actually stretches so that more need fulfillment comes our way after all--sometimes the acceptance of reality can help reality to change.

And here's a random observation -- one of the "givens of adult relating" that Richo lists over several pages -- that really struck home for me:

If you are sensitive to abandonment, it is natural to become terrified when you are criticized or when someone shows disappointment in you. This may be because it feels like a serious or permanent rejection, a severing of a desperately needed bond: "This criticism means she doesn't like me, wants to leave me, and won't love me anymore. When people don't like me, it is my fault."

Or, in the immortal words of Liza, the Darling children's maid, whom I play in our upcoming production of Peter Pan, "I suppose you are mad at me. I suppose I should be leavin' 'ere now. I suppose it's all my fault." (at which point she bursts into tears).

It was that last one that helped me see why I reacted so intensely to that chance remark I mentioned above. Hmm -- I thought I had laid all those old rejection issues to rest, and, damn, here they are, surfacing again in another guise. As Captain Hook says sarcastically to me (in Peter Pan, when, in my other role as Gabby, the pirates' cook, I sidle up to him and say "I've made a SPECIAL dessert fa YOU")

"Oh, GOODY."

Hear the disdain in his voice.

Hear the resignation in mine. Okay, I guess it's time to go back and revisit this one. Again.

Oh, goody.


Maureen said...

I participated with my husband in a weekend-long IMAGO workshop. The IMAGO philosophy seems to be very much akin to Richo's. (Maybe everyone is using the same idea and just calling it something different.) At the end of the workshop we were each given a tiny plastic lizard. I keep mine close. It's a wonderful way to remember that when we get in a tough place that lizard part of the brain, wherein resides all the stuff we've never resolved or are still working on resolving, can take over if we're not careful.

I like what Richo has to say about FACE and his suggestions for dealing with it. I think the suggestions work. They just demand a lot of practice--and keeping that lizard at bay.

Kimberly Mason said...

And -- is it according to Merton? -- it probably won't be the last. ;oP