The key is in pursuing objective reality. If we do not seek this first and foremost then we do not need anyone else to imprison us because we imprison ourselves. By failing to seek neutrality and healthy detachment from our perspective and our own emotions we are subject to becoming trapped by beliefs and hypnotized by our own state of mind. Our mind then becomes our enemy rather than our greatest asset. If we take an inventory of all the distractions that are making us feel lost, this is an excellent place to begin. If we find ourselves wanting to run back to self-soothe our discomforts through those same anxieties, we are at then at a starting place to question why we keep wanting to feel lost and stuck, in fear and helpless.
Objective reality entails rising above. What this means is viewing everything for what it truly is. The truth is it is not about political ideologies, religious beliefs, education, or job titles. We are souls and we are trapped. If we do not rise above what separates us now, we will be a civilization spoken about in great myths of the future. Regardless of what we choose, we will be an example. Do we choose to be a cautionary tale or an epic saga of great triumph?
If you tune out all of the distractions now, you will feel the sunbeams, or the briskness of cold against your skin, you will hear the birds indifferent to your sorrow, you will see that your phone will not feed you and the silence speaks the truth. What can you do today to shine the light that is trapped regardless of the reception? How can you stand in surety of your knowledge of self which is to be free to love and laugh no matter who challenges this? Distraction, confusion, manipulation are adversaries and should be viewed as such. What can you create today, how can you love today, how can you become the silence?
“It’s never overreacting to ask for what you want and need.” ― Amy Poehler
Many of us have learned to align our actions with what others expect of us or with expectations we have created for ourselves to feel accepted by others. Too many times we are willing to settle or negotiate when it comes to honoring or fulfilling our needs for fear that they are either out of line, or do not deserve to be honored and fully respected by another. We are taught about compromise and memorize the “you can’t always get what you want” slogan by age 10. This statement in and of itself causes us to not express ourselves, stand for what we want, or align ourselves to all we can have and create for ourselves.
Often times we desire to have experiences with deeper meaning and connection but are not looking at how our behaviors and actions are not actually aligning with this desire. This causes our needs to move further away from us rather than closer to our “need” center. When you do a basic internet search for needs checklist you get results for moving day, the grocery store or project management. When we have learned to push our needs aside and do not even know how to identify what they are, our search provides further confirmation that needs aren’t that important unless they involve the basics — food and shelter. Joy, happiness, love, human connection are “nice to haves.” We are conditioned to believe these are selfish desires and that they are not always realistic, so we revert back to living our lives from a lack standpoint, that we must work a job we hate or stay in an unhappy marriage or relationship.
Needs are whatever we determine them to be. Sometimes we need to go through certain experiences in our life to determine what it actually is that we need. It is important that we are critically honest with ourselves when we make this determination. In order to align ourselves with what we need we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are making ourselves available for what we need. If our behavior is contrary to having these needs met, we are called to change our behavior. If we do not want to be in debt and we need to be financially secure for example, we must change our behavior to allow this need to be fulfilled. If we want honest and open communication with our spouse, but we always receive the opposite from them, we may need to re-evaluate the relationship with either them or with ourselves. If we need to feel loved and supported but never accept any support, cordoning ourselves off to love, we are basically doing the antithesis of meeting our needs — we are actively rejecting them. Needs align with action.
Ask yourself how it would feel to live your entire life without your needs ever being met?
The first step in determining your needs is feeling into your heart space to see what is most desired in your life. Then ask yourself how it would feel to live your entire life without it. Based on your response, you can determine if it is a “passing fancy” or a need. Desires change over time, and although needs may, for the most part they stay with you throughout the course of your life. An example would be “I need to feel loved.” I ask you to go a step deeper here and ask “In what way is it that I need to feel loved?” Get in touch with your love language. Do you feel loved when someone says it, when they give you a gift, when they do a chore for you, or when they spend time with you? How do you receive this love? Someone can love you in the opposite way of what you need. You must get in touch with your needs intimately so that they are clear to both you and articulated to others. If you need to make $5k a month to pay your bills and you get a job offer for $2k it’s not what you need. The same goes for love and friendships. If you accept things in your life that are not aligned with your needs it will begin to cause you great distress.
Are you allowing your needs to be met?
Once you determine your needs, you can then as a second step ask if they are currently being met by either yourself or your immediate circle of influence, professional and/or personal. If they are not being met, have you communicated this to the other party? Have you taken a look at your behavior and if you have allowed your needs to be met by the other? If we are fearful of getting hurt for example or we are extremely independent, have we allowed someone else to support us, have we allowed ourselves to depend on another, have we opened our heart? If the answer is yes and our needs are still not being met, we must now communicate them to the other without being afraid of what may happen. They may not be well received, acknowledged or honored. This is where we need to make sure we have tried our best to communicate to the other party in a way that they are able to receive the information. This may take stepping outside of our traditional and natural communication style. How does the other party process information? If we have tried our best to work with the other person and our needs are not respected, we must honor our own needs. We do this by eliminating the people, places and things that are not honoring our needs. You may have noticed or maybe not, that whenever you fearlessly follow the path that most honors and respects your being, the universe aligns to support this. This is exemplified in the Devil Wears Prada. When we give up self-sabotaging behavior, we suddenly find that our surroundings that were waiting to honor us come out to cheer.
Are you afraid to commit to your needs?
In order to align ourselves with our needs we have to know what we bring to the table. If we need to be respected, are we respecting ourselves enough to eliminate anything that is not respectful? I do not mean tolerate, wait for a situation to become respectful, hope it will become respectful, but eliminate. If we want honesty we need to be honest, with ourselves mostly. Am I supporting my own needs through my environment, friend, career, and daily choices? If we want faithfulness, we need to be faithful (to ourselves). If we want to be healthy we need to eat things that contribute to our health and move our body and free our mind. In order to do so we have to investigate. What is healthy, what exercises work for me, have I worked through my emotional traumas? Am I committed to having my needs met and/or meeting my own needs, or do I flake out on myself with excuses? If we are not embodying the life we need we must call ourselves to make the necessary changes. I understand that no one likes the feeling of being rejected and that is why we don’t enforce our needs, but keep in mind you are already being rejected on a regular basis my having your needs actively ignored anyway.
From experience it starts with building value, love, and respect within. This is not an immediate and straightforward path and it is not for the faint of heart. Once you start and the more effort you dedicate to it however, the better you can define your needs and the less you accept treatment, environments or experiences that don’t honor them. Don’t get me wrong, you will still encounter challenges because this is life, but you won’t stick around for long.
“What is required for many of us, paradoxical though it may sound, is the courage to tolerate happiness without self-sabotage.” — Nathaniel Branden
There are many types of romantic relationships. Good, bad, mediocre, dangerous, life changing, short-lived, sometimes ethereal. One thing they all have in common is that from the time we are young, we are taught that we should have one. We should hunt for it or let it find us. We should become worthy of one, change for one, or even compete for one. Some of us witnessed horrible relationships as children and so we fear them, avoiding them at all costs. Or sadly, we repeat what we learned from our misguided teachers, perpetuating harmful lessons.
Depending on our idea of what defines a relationship, we may work quickly in the selection process, or withhold full benefits until the individual has proven competence in the position. Sometimes we interview overqualified candidates and work hard to convince them they should accept our offer. Or for some of us, we welcome entry level experience hoping that with our guidance and investment, they can reach newfound success. This may be a realistic theory for a recent high school graduate, but the probability of an adult changing into someone other than who they have long chosen to be, just because we have decided to love them, is possible but unlikely.
When a person chooses not to invest in themselves, their personal growth, or in us, it is unwise to become one of their high-risk investors, especially when we can’t afford to lose. If we throw caution to the wind, it may be that we are misdirecting our time and energy in another so that we don’t have to look at the ways we have historically or are presently sabotaging ourselves. If we are not interested in investigating and addressing the root of our recurring aches and pains, it is not realistic that a partner or lover will ever cure them for us. A relationship may offer temporary relief, but once the euphoria wears off, there are typically two people left standing comparing battle scars and blaming one another for the infliction of more.
Many times, it takes such pain in the context of a relationship to learn some of our most valuable life lessons. But first, we must be willing to learn. It is much easier for us to look at relationships as hurting experiences with a hero and a villain, rather than what they truly are, opportunities for our healing and growth. Others of us just blindly stay in unfulfilling, toxic, or abusive relationships because we are afraid that there will never be more, we believe we have no other choice, or we simply feel that we are not powerful enough to make a change. Maybe we are in a relationship right now, questioning whether we should stay or go. It can feel very difficult to make such decisions, when we are not comfortable putting ourselves first, or if we don’t feel brave enough to acknowledge the dull ache of things that don’t quite feel right. Feeling confused, we justify bad with good, believing our own words or another’s, rather than reality and verifiable action.
No matter where we are at in our life, if we have never taken time to identify, define and prioritize our needs and evaluate our own areas for development, we cannot expect another to honor us in relationship or elsewhere. We may become more prone to self-sabotaging behavior if we are unaware of our impairments and how we may be attracted to complimentary impairments in another, or vice versa. According to Psychology Today, self-sabotaging behavior creates problems in our daily life and interferes with our long-standing goals. It is the action of damaging, obstructing or impairing ourselves whether consciously or subconsciously.
If you feel something may be out of alignment, yet continue to participate in a relationship anyway, some of the following clues may help you identify and break the self-sabotage you could be inflicting through your relationship:
#1. Energetic Decline or Disruption of Natural State. Have you experienced an inexplicable change in your energy levels? Have you had a decrease in passion or motivation? Are you normally calm and relaxed, but now are uptight with little patience? Is anger bubbling below the surface, causing you to feel hostile or critical toward others? Is your living space usually organized and now it is disheveled? Do you skip classes or activities you used to enjoy? Are you normally social and find yourself avoiding others or being reclusive? Have you lost interest in your appearance?
#2. Excusing Unacceptable Behavior. Are you excusing behavior that you would never find acceptable from another person outside the relationship, or even from yourself? Are you choosing your partner over trusted longtime friends after they have voiced their concerns? Are you forgiving actions that you believe to be unforgivable, but for some reason you have created a reason in your mind to do so anyway?
#3. Continuous Self-Talk and Overthinking.Do you find yourself constantly trying to convince yourself things aren’t bothering you; they are not as bad as they seem, or maybe you are crazy? Are you thinking to yourself maybe you did something to warrant mistreatment? Or maybe, you are justifying your partners offenses because they “just have had it rough?” Well you have had it rough too remember that, or maybe you haven’t…but I have, and it doesn’t grant someone a free pass to lie, steal, cheat, take from, or mistreat others.
#4. Ignoring Your Needs. Are you staying in a bad situation so you don’t hurt the other person’s feelings, even though you are not happy most of the time? Are you putting off endeavors or activities that are important to you, to focus on your partner or their goals? Do you allow yourself to get steamrolled, finding yourself trying to have boundaries, but quickly giving up when you get some resistance? Have you become resigned to the fact you must live a life different than the one you desire or have the potential to create, because you know that it will never be possible with your partner? Do you downplay your successes or strengths because it makes your partner feel uncomfortable?
#5. Change in Habits. Do you find that you are saying yes to things that you want to say no to, such as sexual activities, alcohol and drug use, or smoking? Have you started spending more money in an unhealthy way? Have you changed your normal self-care routines? Have you stopped exercising? Have you begun stress eating, maybe putting on a few unwanted pounds? Have you felt anxiety around keeping your phone close as to not miss a call or text, feeling responsible for responding immediately to your partner? Again, have you stopped interacting with your friends?
#6. Focused on the Future. Do you think that someday things will be different in your relationship? Maybe things will change for the better? Are you being carried by promises that have yet to materialize? Do you invest in your partner in hopes that they will become the person you envision, yet they never seem to make a drastic change? Do you romanticize the relationship through your future visions rather than what is happening in the present? Do you think that maybe you can change them if enough time passes? Maybe they will realize one day soon?
#7. Erosion of Boundaries. Have you noticedthat the lines between you and your partner have become illegible and you are losing your sense of self? Do you feel that your partners reality is not your reality, but you are constantly made to feel it is? Are you not honored with privacy and personal space to pursue your goals or personal endeavors? Are there not clear rules around food, shelter, and other responsibilities? When you try to have boundaries are you personally attacked, guilted, or even covertly manipulated?
If any of these questions caused you to think that you may indeed be a victim of your own self-sabotage, the great news is, it is never too late to do something about it. At certain times in our lives we have all fallen prey to our own desertion. And if we never learned how to decipher the difference between the languages coming from our head and our heart, it is difficult to know which one is sending us messages to save us from ourselves. We are all born with an internal compass that alerts us when we start going the wrong direction, but for some reason many times rather than trusting our intuition, we trick ourselves with our thoughts, convincing ourselves what we feel is wrong. The only true test we have, is to quiet our minds and ask ourselves how we feel right now. If something doesn’t feel right, most likely it is because it isn’t.
“What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” — Haddaway
As human beings at our core we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are. We are willing to work for it, act for it, lie for it and hell sometimes even die for it. Some of us are satisfied with the mere illusion of love. We justify our feelings, other’s behaviors and the notion that love is a scarce resource and start living the old adage of taking the good with the bad. We live in a state of limbo between what we desire and accepting the idea that what we desire does not exist.
We have watched a lot of movies, both on the big screen and in our personal lives. These movies have taught us polarities of love. It is either perfect, romantic and serendipitous; or excruciatingly painful, abusive, even maybe a boring lifeless dead-end job. This contributes to our confusion of what actual love is and what we should accept as the happy medium. If you are anything like me, you may have gone on for most of your life not knowing how healthy love is supposed to play out between two willing participants. You may feel that you will know it when you see it, you will feel it.
This is a great notion if you believe that when love appears it is going to rescue you. It is difficult to get rescued from a sinking ship on the high seas when your counterpart is on the ship with you and does not have advanced aquatic skills. You guys are in the same boat, as the saying goes. When one incomplete person meets another, the only loving that is happening is the love of the fantasy you both are living in. The fantasy can look good too, sometimes even materializing into shared wealth and ostentatious possessions.
Many times, what we think of as love is just a mirror of our wounds reenacting themselves through an interaction with another. We develop a bond to the experience of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, rather than addressing the hole itself. The hole could have come from anywhere, but most likely it came from other’s beliefs or actions that either punctured you quickly or wore through you over time and experience. Now you just want the hole filled even if you have to jam a piece of shit in there! Well let me tell you, there are only so many times that you can do this before it becomes unbearable and you must take a shower of truth.
Love is many things. One of love’s attributes is having great interest and pleasure in something. We must ask ourselves if we really have a great interest and pleasure in our interactions with this person, or if it is causing discomfort, confusion, angst, or an excuse to numb our emotions. It could be a mix of both. It could be that you have built a neural pathway through repetition of enforcing self-limiting beliefs, so your “love”, is actually just the same as the interest a heroin addict has in continuing to get high. Maybe none of us know exactly what love is, and it may appear in many different forms. But it wasn’t until I was faced with acknowledging my unhealthy feelings and beliefs that I had toward myself demonstrated in relationship, that I was able to learn more about what love isn’t.
Love is not:
#1. Imbalance — Most of the strife in relationships comes from the game of transactions, whether it be of time, resources, validation, money, sex, attention, awareness, you get the gist. When disproportionate, a general lack of respect toward the other manifests in one form or another. If we were more concerned with managing our energy for our own nourishment first, we would then be able to love and give from the heart, without over giving beyond our reserves expecting it to be reciprocated. When we give to get something in return, and don’t, we create a relationship of exchange by either continuing to give to someone who is incapable of showing up in the way we need to be repaid, or simply does not want to. If you feel an imbalance, check in with your motives and see if you are acting in love or just acting in hopes that someone will love you.
#2. Cyclical — When the same behavior, patterns, or painful lessons keep permeating your relationship and you desperately try to figure them out, justify them or fix them in the name of love, this is not love, but a traumatic bond otherwise known as codependency. This typically happens because the words and actions of one person are not aligned leaving the other person confused, trying to reconcile their cognitive dissonance. When one person is looking for answers in changed behavior from the other rather than looking to make changes within or to change what is in their control, this pattern can be repeated indefinitely. When we start noticing patterns of behavior or recurring “what the hell’s?” we need to ask ourselves why we are committed to something that continues to hurt us.
#3. Synthesis — Being tied at the hip, giving up your interests because your significant other doesn’t understand or is insecure, not keeping any thoughts for yourself, going along with whatever your lover wants, not having your own opinions or identity; this is not love. How can you love someone or how can they love you if you are not able to be yourself, or don’t even commit to being who you are? How can you love someone truly when you must give up who you are so that they will accept you and be with you? Love is acknowledging the beauty in another, not forcing your partner or yourself, to be the same person or have the same thoughts, dreams, or desires in order to be accepted by the other.
#4. Substitution — Love is not a substitute for the gaping holes you have neglected in yourself, it is not as simple as putting Splenda in your coffee instead of sugar. If you attempt to feel better by simply having a relationship, I assure you it is not going to taste very good. It will always be bittersweet. The relationship of love you need to have is first and foremost with yourself. Maybe you are still figuring that relationship out and that is ok, but you must want it above any other.
#5. Destination — When I fall in love…… Love is a way, a continuous practice, mostly involving you. If you haven’t learned to love life, love yourself, your darkness, your quirks, your scars, and ghosts, how can you expect anyone else to ever accept them. That is a salesman stumbling, stuttering and not knowing any facts about a product, but still expecting you to buy it; they are not going to be very successful. Love is not like a vacation you finally get to take after working yourself to the bone; it is a permanent residence in your mind body and spirit. No one is going to want to visit if you don’t clean house.
Learning how to love yourself is tough for certain. It comes through many trials by fire, failures, successes, relationships, maybe through looking into the eyes of your child. It is a commitment that stays with you until the end. You will be challenged by external factors that test your resolve. If you are not willing to do the work to learn it and feel it, you will get worked by those that have no respect for your complacency. In order to master anything you have to know it inside and out.
You may be in a romantic situation now where you find yourself questioning your feelings or the feelings of your significant other. You may have already exchanged the vows of “I love you” many times or may still be tossing around the idea. One thing is for certain. Love is many, many things, but to ever truly find it you must know what it is not.
“In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair…the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” ― Dorothy L. Sayers
Just a few short years ago I never would have envisioned that I would have shifted my career trajectory, had a parent die, shed my ego-based image for more passionate pursuits and practical possessions, and most of all fallen deeply in love after many years of living in an emotional fortress. This “falling” led me to feel accepted in a way that I never had before, creating the desire to accept another too. My relationship forced me to confront outdated beliefs about myself, which ultimately dictated what I would come to find acceptable from others, including my romantic partner.
Almost from the start, I was met with an abundance of opportunities to accept another individual for their shortcomings and process the continued jewels inherent in “getting to know someone”. Unbeknownst to me at the time, everything I believed I had accepted, was in fact not being accepted at all but like a dead-end job was merely being tolerated. Not dissimilar, I was left hoping there was better but feeling immobilized to go after it due to the daily erosion of my belief in the future. The slow murmur of discomfort continued to pulse, slowly leaching joy with each movement of the hand on the clock.
The things that were tolerated ranged from the innocent to the heart-wrenching, making the innocent like ants on an open wound. Soon the big and not so big blended together to create a cushion for my high horse and pedestal. Falling into childlike traps I would try to fix everything, thinking the more I threw at it, the better it would get. The more I “taught” my partner through anger filled glances, sighs, and unsolicited lectures, I would advance to the front, in some invisible know-it-all perfection board of love chess. I would become victim yet again of someone seizing my kindness for weakness, reaffirming my story I had created and keeping me trapped in a cycle of enmeshment.
I failed to see that my tolerance was not only a lack of boundaries, but a lack of clear guidelines of what was acceptable for me within the bounds of love. Just because you love someone does not mean that you must tolerate certain behavior or acts. Accepting someone for who they are, does not mean tolerating them to hurt you or repeat toxic behavior in the name of love. Just because you want to be accepted for who you are, does not mean that you should tolerate other people’s actions and label it acceptance. Which leads me to my point. There is no tolerance in love.
According to Merriam-Webster, tolerating is by one definition, “the capacity to endure continued subjection to something”. By contrast love is by one definition, “a great interest and pleasure in something.” To gain great pleasure in enduring something is almost by definition a masochist, “a person who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious.” Although it may seem required of you to endure certain discomforts in a relationship, there are a few guidelines that may help you to see if these are healthy discomforts that create growth, or if they are discomforts that are detrimental to your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.
Guideline #1: Has my passion for life, experiences and accomplishments increased or decreased?
· Do I look forward to my future independently and/or with this person? Make sure that this gut check is in comparison to what you know to be true about yourself. Was I goal oriented in the past; did I explore my passions before being in this relationship? E.g., Did I go to art classes before, read books, trips, look forward to career milestones?
Guideline #2: Do I feel freedom to grow, explore and most importantly be myself?
· Am I able to do basic activities I was able to do before I was in this relationship without receiving guilt trips or resistance?
· Do I have the freedom in this relationship to try new things that are not harmful to the other person? Am I met with support or objection? *This objection can be overt or covert with subtle body and expression cues as well.
Guideline #3: Do I feel confused often whether I should continue to be in this relationship?
· Am I often left questioning my own feelings or questioning if this relationship is for me? Am I often hoping it will get better or reminiscing on how much better I felt in the beginning or prior to the relationship?
Bonus Guideline: Am I getting back what I give?
· Does this person respect and honor my concerns and feelings, expressing their own? Or do they often disregard my concerns and press their agenda? Does this person take more than they give, do I give more than I receive?
For anyone that has been in a relationship whether romantic, platonic or professional, it is common knowledge that they can indeed have challenges. Challenges push us to grow and come out the other side better than when we came in, stronger, more polished and confident in new found strengths. Accepting what is offered in relationship and in turn reciprocated is fine-tuned through years of building confidence, self-esteem, acceptable boundaries and baseline standards. Some young people seem to come out of the gate with this knowledge, good for them (and their parents)! There have been many people that have had to tolerate treatment without the consent that acceptance requires. They have had to endure mistreatment because of race, gender, handicaps and at other times for maybe more subtle reasons.
Love always provides the opportunity to accept another for exactly who they are, it does not however ask us to tolerate them, or tolerate an unhappy, undesired reality.