Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Lesson from Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou said, "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time." When I first heard this, I just paused. I wasn't sure if I believed that and something about it didn't feel right. My first thought was, "What about all the times that I've unintentionally hurt others and they continued to support me and give me another chance? I thank God for those people!" I want to be a merciful and patient person. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and always believe the best. I don't want to believe something about a person because of one behavior. I also want to be smarter about good self-care and not routinely become someone else's doormat! Surely there has got to be a good balance in there somewhere.

Every now and again I will have a brief moment of clarity on a tough issue. My understanding of a problem or its solution will show its face like an image emerging in a cloudy crystal ball, then it's gone again. But for that one moment I felt a knowing. This is how many of us gain a new insight or how some of us move into acceptance of an issue as opposed to just being aware of it. I realized this week the truth of Maya Angelou's statement. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. Take note of the behavior that was just displayed and adjust yourself within that relationship. This does not mean I have to stop believing in the good in the person. This does not mean that I give up on this person. It doesn't mean I become unkind or unforgiving toward them. What it does mean is that I can practice healthy and loving safeguards within that relationship so that I do not have to be hurt in the same way again by this same person! It does mean that I should take note of the other person's behavior and know they are capable of it again. It is good to believe the truth of another person's behavior. I can be respectful to the other person while also believing and knowing their potential for hurtful behavior.

It feels right to be given permission to trust my instincts. When someone shows me unhealthy behavior, my instinct is self-preservation and that is OK. It is not selfish. This is a loving act toward myself. I can love myself without being cruel to other people. In fact, it's really not very loving to the other people to allow them to continue practicing their unhealthy behavior with me time and time again. I see now that I can set a limit with other people simply by putting up some protection around myself! I don't have to go to someone and confront their behavior everytime. Often I can just observe their behavior and establish a boundary around ME. This actually speaks volumes to other people. Thank God for moments of clarity.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Detachment: A Pathway to Peace

Detach. What a beautiful, yummy, and yet terrifying word. Here is Webster's definition of detach: "To disconnect: separate: to extricate oneself or withdraw." Detachment is an action often prescribed to us in our 12 step groups or by our therapists or friends. It means to emotionally let go of a situation or the outcome of a situation. Often we need to detach from people, because our remaining connected is poisoning us in some way. Always we detach as an act of love and ultimate respect toward ourselves.

Detachment becomes necessary when my connection to a thing, a person, or a situation is threatening to my sanity, my peace, my integrity, my health, or body. There are people so incredibly toxic that to remain involved with them means constant chaos and pain. Sometimes we may need to detach from a person who we cannot fully exclude from our lives, because they are our child or our boss at work. This type of detachment is a mental and emotional releasing. It is arriving at an emotional place where our own stability no longer hinges on what the other person says or does. We come to a knowing within ourselves that regardless of how the other person behaves, we will not be moved. We will not be flustered, angered, or care more than they do about themselves or their personal affairs. We lovingly lay down the other person's personal responsiblities at their own feet and walk away. We separate our sacred self from the choices of another human being. We detach.

There are situations in our lives that are troublesome and painful, situations which we cannot change despite our best efforts at trying. I am prone to worrying excessively, turning a problem over and over in my mind for a solution. Eventually the time comes when I have to be assertive with myself! I have to tell myself to detach from this situation. It is my responsiblity, after I've done all I know to do, to go to my Higher Power and ask for help. It is good that I lean on my Higher Power in these situations that are larger than me. I pray the Serenity Prayer for courage, wisdom, and serenity and I detach. I extricate my mind from the worry place. I forbid myself from going there. I connect to the resources of my Higher Power and disconnect from believing a situation outside of me holds the power to care for me or keep me happy. Often I must detach several times in one day or perhaps several times in one hour. Nonetheless I detach as often as I need to until I feel my peace begin to return.

Today I am so thankful for the skill of DETACHMENT, and today it feels good. There are times when detachment does not bring immediate relief, particularly the first few instances we detach from a painful person or situation. Laying down responsiblity for things we cannot control can force us to take responsiblity for ourselves in a way we have not been doing. We become more aware of our own feelings, all of them, the good and the bad. Sometimes there is intense grief after we detach from a situation. This is good and signifies moving toward ourselves and a fuller awareness of how we feel and what we need to do for ourselves.

How detachment comes and how it happens is a mystery to me. We do it when we're ready. I love this passage from Melody Beattie's Codependents' Guide to the Twelve Steps: "Love and accept ourselves, as is, no matter what our present circumstances. The answer will come. The solution will come. But not from trying so hard. The answer will come from detachment" (pg. 26). We may do it when we're worn out from trying everything else! We may do it out of anger or frustration. We may do it with tears of grief or even tears of relief, but do it. Just do it. When you know you have lost your very self to someone else's mess or troubles beyond your control. Just detach.

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