Tackle It

writingonthewallSometimes people get really clear on what their tendencies are, but that’s as far as they go. Maybe you know people like this. I used to date a guy who was brilliant in this regard; if something came up between us and I talked to him about how I felt, he would focus and listen and completely own his end. He could tell me what had driven him to do what he did, or say what he’d said. He would acknowledge that he understood why I would feel the way I did, and he’d apologize, and I’d think, awesome. He really heard me. We understand each other. We’ve had some really good communication. But then the next time a similar situation presented itself, nothing at all would change. It was like “Groundhog’s Day”, only not funny.

Identifying our stuff is a huge step. It’s definitely a big part of knowing ourselves, so we can be accountable for the energy we’re spreading and the actions we’re taking, but if that’s as far as we go, we’ve landed in a ditch. Sometimes I get emails from people, and they say things like, “Well, I have an addictive personality, so sometimes I lie,” and I’ll ask, “Is that the end of the story? You have an addictive personality, so you lie?” Or I’ll hear, “My dad left when I was four, so I have abandonment issues.” I may have said that once or twice in my own life. The thing is, your abandonment issues don’t make it okay for you to cling or manipulate or bend over backwards to be perfect so people won’t leave you. Life isn’t going to feel good like that. Knowing what your issues are is huge. Then you can be aware when you’re in a danger zone. If you have fear of being left and you keep picking people who are unavailable, you can rightly assume you still have some healing to do around the first time you felt abandoned. You don’t have to let that one ancient event predetermine your whole destiny. You don’t have to keep replaying the old tape again and again.

Other classic examples of identification without the follow-up work? “I have fear of commitment”, “I have fear of failure”, “I felt invisible as a kid so I need attention all the time”, “I felt invisible as a kid, so I cringe when people notice me”, “I learned you can’t trust anyone, so I don’t.” You get the picture. It’s what we do about what we know that matters. If you have fear of being abandoned, that’s yours to grapple with and tame, it’s not your partner’s work, it’s yours. Do you want to choose people who are compassionate when you’re going to be intimate? Of course. Do you want to be able to share your struggles and allow yourself to be vulnerable? Yes. But your pain and disappointments and heartbreaks do not give you free reign to act out all over the place. It’s never okay to check your partner’s emails or text messages, even if your last partner cheated on you, or you grew up in a house where infidelity was the norm. That has nothing to do with your partner, and it is not their job to allow you to violate their privacy because you feel triggered. Having a conversation about your feelings is fine, but even that will get old after awhile. A therapist is a great call if you’re struggling with internal demons. I can tell you I slayed quite a few on my yoga mat, and in a therapist’s office. I find that to be a winning combination by the way. Therapy is a great place to become aware of what’s scaring you, or blocking you from living life in a way that feels good to you, and a yoga mat is a great place to start to starve the voice that tells you this is how you are, or this is how things are. You don’t have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. Everyone is different, of course, and part of the work is searching for healing modalities and combinations that are going to work for you.

In order to liberate ourselves from our issues, we have to heal the original wounds we’re carrying. We can’t play this stuff out in the present and expect that to be the balm that soothes us, because in order to create a similar dynamic of pain, you’ll have to pick people who cannot give you what you want. That’s the hook, that’s what snags you. All you’ll accomplish that way is the creation of more pain for yourself, and more information that affirms your false assumption that “everyone leaves”, or “everyone cheats”, or whatever it is you’re telling yourself. If you want to heal, you’ll have to dive into the source of your pain and face it head on. This is the only way I know to free yourself. If you could run, I’d tell you to run. If you could solve it be pretending it isn’t there, I’d say go ahead, pretend. If you could numb it without killing yourself in the process, I’d say do your thing, and if you could heal by replaying ancient pain in your present, with people who don’t know how to do anything but hurt you, I’d say go right ahead. But none of that works. You’re just on a train, crashing into a wall, and that becomes less and less pleasant, no matter how many words and explanations you give it. Who cares why you’re crashing into a brick wall? At a certain point, don’t you want to just not do that anymore?

It’s wonderful to be able to know yourself and articulate how things are for you, but ultimately, these things are more interesting to us than they will be to anyone else and they’re more useful to us, as well. Stopping at the identification process is like picking a dish off the menu, but not eating it. Time to grab your fork if you need to!

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

6 thoughts on “Tackle It”

  1. Insight is not enough. One needs to get off one´s ass, and do the hard work of facing the facts. There is no other way to free ourselves. And Yoga really is the best thing for those of us who are so lucky to have discovered it since childhood, or whatever stage of life one discoveres Yoga. I have seen it. Again and again. Yoga does change one´s life, for the better.

  2. This is so true. I agree completely that being able to identify one’s stuff is tremendously important, but constitutes only the first step (or first line) of the story. I’d like to take what you said a step further, though, and add that sometimes cause and effect statements like “Well, I have an addictive personality, so sometimes I lie” are sometimes grounded more in cultural conditioning than reality. I’d encourage people to question those sorts of beliefs– e.g. perhaps one does have an addictive personality, but is that really the sole/primary reason they sometimes choose to lie? I understand that sometimes these things don’t feel like a choice– that is a separate issue.

    I think we should be careful about accepting limiting beliefs, and statements like “My parents got divorced, so I’ll never be able to sustain a committed relationship” are, IMHO, limiting beliefs and not scientific statements of cause and effect. I’ve seen people struggle to move on from this stuff because sometimes even well-meaning therapists, if viewed as voices of authority/reason, can say things like, “problem X happened in your childhood, so of course you are struggling with issue Y now.” Perhaps some acknowledgement of that is necessary, but I think the real healing comes in how one addresses (and hopefully overcomes) issue Y. Part of that healing may very well be making some sort of peace with the past, but ultimately none of can undo the past, so I think we’re better off not letting it having so much control over our decisions in the present, meaning being a bit more critical before we just accept that our present thoughts/behaviors/etc are predetermined by something that happened in the past.

    1. Agreed on all counts. I think it’s important to examine areas where we need to heal, which may be the source of self-limiting beliefs. I think once we’re clear on events that may have shaped us, we can be conscious about decisions and choices we’re making in the present. And I don’t think we should assume we’re going to have problems in certain areas. So much of it is about seeing clearly and knowing ourselves. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. XO

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