“As AA or any other 12-step group will tell you, sanity begins the moment you admit you’re powerless over other people. This is the moment you become mentally free to start trying new ideas, building new relationships, experimenting to see what situations feel better than the hopeless deadlock of depending on change from someone you can’t control.” – Martha Beck “I don’t Care” in O Magazine, July 2011
When we are at odds with someone’s lifestyle, choices or behavior it is really difficult to accept them as they are, especially when it is a close friend or family member. We move from unconditional love to “caring” so deeply that we withhold love or dish out love dependent on our own expectations of this person. We find ourselves striving to convince them where they’re wrong. We point out their flaws. We complain about the feelings that rise up in ourselves – the things that person makes you feel. I truly do think on some level we expect our negative emotions and maybe even our verbal attacks to help this person “see the light” or our way of thought or life. But what usually occurs instead is a conflict of egos. How do we really expect people to react when we approach them and hold up a mirror in which they can see their wrongs, misjudgments, mistakes, faults or flaws? It is never a pleasant feeling to be picked apart by a “loved one.” We may do it in the guise of “tough love” or “caring,” but often when these titles come in unconditional love checks out and freedom seems fleeting.
Without freedom love seems meaningless. Whether in a friend relationship, romance or family connection, when we seek to control and “set another person straight” we set ourselves up for disappointment and struggle. Just as a flower blooms in its own time and a nut taps easily from its shell when ready, so a person comes to acceptance and peace when they are ready. This peace can only be accomplished through space and freedom – through simple grace that allows us to cast off expectations and judgments.
There are several words you can eliminate from your vocabulary to create more freedom for yourself, friends and family. Get rid of “should.” Saying “I should do this…” or “I should feel this…” implies that you are missing the mark or in the wrong place, home or state of mind. You are where you are. Accept it and stop “shoulding” yourself to death. Move in a different direction if you won’t accept it. Another word to delete is “can’t,” which removes your sense of control and personal responsibility for your life and relationships. “I can’t forgive her until she does ‘x,y,z,’…” “I can’t work out because I have no time.” “I can’t be healthy because I have four kids.” If you are going to make decisions you have to OWN them. No one holds you back except for you. Can’t implies that you are unable and incapable. If you truly can’t, then you may be in a situation where you are being abused, suppressed or held down. A support system is necessary to create the freedom and love you need to succeed. Reach out! Reach, reach, reach!
For me, Martha Beck’s columns in O Magazine are always interesting because they put relationships and struggles into perspective. It really does take two people to make any relationship work. But it takes two people who are continually working on themselves and not attempting to improve the other. We may inspire each other, sure. We may make suggestions and advise, counsel and console. But at the end of the day, you’re still in charge of your own sanity. You decide when sanity begins.
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