November 28, 2023•1,890 words
"It's time to move into the conflict and ugliness of the world and relationship. To stop withdrawing into the calm, comfort and safety of isolation and imagination and to move towards the pain and friction of engagement willingly. To trust in my capacity to handle it with increasing grace and skill, or at least to trust myself to develop the capacity to do so along the way. To know that my precious peace is always waiting within me, after but a few moments of fully feeling and being with whatever is arising. I will not be overwhelmed or destroyed by it. I can contain and integrate all of it, and I will only grow and be able to handle more by leaning into it now."
This is a thought I had on the toilet the other day. I seem to be moving into a new phase of this process. Looking back today, I'm able to contextualize and understand more of my feelings, behaviours and choices over the past few years more clearly.
One thing I was going through was the need to find and assert myself in my relationships. Because of my natural tendency to want to please, accommodate and placate others, and because I grew up in an environment where that was encouraged, taken advantage of, and in which the exploration and expression of my own feelings, preferences, wants and needs were dismissed and overrided, I had essentially failed to manifest throughout my life as the individual that I am. Any sense of apparent individuality was really a result of my becoming an appropriately effective and charming reflection of the people I cared about. There was still an individual ego/self quietly taking shape behind the scenes, but it was unable to manifest. It was repressed and submerged in the unconscious. At a certain point I became more and more accutely aware and uncomfortable with the disparity between this growing unconscious individual ego/self and my outward persona and roles. The true self was demanding expression but it felt unacceptable and unsafe, like it would destroy the precious harmony I had established by becoming this perfectly shifting mirror to those around me.
Nonetheless, I tried leaning into it little by little, and I ended up doing so extremely clumsily. I was careless with my words and emotions at times, throwing them around and essentially underestimating the potential consequences. Because in that moment the unconscious was in control and asserting - the truth was to start emerging, whether I or others liked it or not, whether it was an appropriate time and place or not, as I was coming back into contact with my power and freedom to be myself. But I can see now that I can't really have my cake and eat it too, meaning that I can't be part of these groups or have these relationships if I'm not going to be considerate of the feelings of others, if I'm not going to compromise and accomodate them to some degree. I can always selfishly and carelessly assert myself regardless of how it makes others feel, I am free to do so. But in doing so I'd also have to accept that they won't want to be close to and accomodate me. So I'd have to be ready to embrace either a certain amount of aloneness or only being able to connect with others who are similarly selfish and careless, which I don't seem to enjoy. I could be bitter about this, bitter that I can't be that child on the playground who's shrieking and calling others dumb and having no one nice/sensitive/considerate to play with, or I can accept it as a social reality and make my choices accordingly.
I've been clumsy and careless with my feelings and words, but I had to go through that period of clumsiness to learn where the line really is beyond my conditioned fear. The line between allowing my own ego/self the freedom to assert and express without disturbing others' feelings past a tolerable/forgivable/understandable/reasonable degree. Regardless of my needs and intent, others have been hurt or repelled by them in the process. I'll have to accept that, and in some cases I'll have to let those people go. In others I'll have to choose whether to apologize and make amends if I'm to keep the relationship, and I'll have to be willing to hold parts of myself back at times. These are the prices that need to be paid for the benefit of closeness with most people, and it's up to me to decide which path to take, at least up to the point that it's up to them to decide whether or not they'll engage in return.
I feel a lot more clarity around this today. It's really quite simple. It was made exceedingly complicated largely due to the amount of anger and conflicts I've been suppressing throughout my life. Eventually all of that just piled up to unbearable levels in the body/unconscious and came bursting out all at once, burning everyone else in the process. I tried my best to contain it but it was really overflowing, to the point that I wasn't really able to see or be available to those around me. I didn't have enough space, peace or clarity within me to contain the thoughts or feelings of anyone else, the repressed contents have just been pouring forth like a geyser. I was carelessly spouting opinions and judgments that would arise in response to those of others, overlooking and neglecting the feelings of others. The ego/self and the emotional contents were asserting, and those around me were essentially being pulled along for the ride in various ways. I have tried to shield them from it, but to a degree they needed to play a part in this. I guess it's another part of the deal of choosing to be in relationship with someone - to a certain degree you need to be ready to serve as a catalyst/trigger/receiver of the unconscious contents of those you're close to, and be ready to either weather the storms with them or disengage.
Still, for my part it isn't right to dismiss the amount of pain I might have caused in the process. I can't honestly blame myself because it was largely unfolding unconsciously and I spent much of the past couple years in a chronically activated and overwhelmed state barely keeping my shit together. But I also can't honestly blame others anymore, which is something I was doing much of the time. Especially certain key people in my life - I resented how much I had allowed them to override me, and for how much pain and anger I had accumulated while being close to them. I unconsciously blamed them for this and the terrible consequences it's wreaked upon my body, mind and life, when it wasn't really anyone's fault. It's just something that happened as a result of incalculable circumstances coming together, going all the way back to the dawn of existence really. It wasn't anyone's fault, but it is my responsibility now. I have to accept it and deal with it, and I can't take it out on others anymore. If I'm going to move out of delusion and into truth, and therefore true power, peace and freedom, I have to accept and take responsibility for the hand I've been dealt and the choices I make and have made without blaming anyone. Because they're all in the exact same process. Their unconscious contents are pouring forth too, and they're hurting people without necessarily meaning or wanting to. Even when they do want to, this isn't their fault. It's part of the hand they've been given. I still need to take steps to protect myself from them, but blame and resentment are a sign that I'm getting caught up in a victim narrative and forgetting my own power and responsibility.
I've been childish the past couple years, and I've had to be. Because that child inside never had a chance to be and grow when I actually was a child. Before my earliest memory I was forced to wear a mask, forced to serve roles and meet needs I wasn't equipped for, forced to try to attend to responsibilities and tasks I could never possibly succeed at. I was doing my best for so long, and I failed, and it wasn't my fault. That failure, that relinquishing of responsibilities that never should have been forced onto me, allowed room for the child within to finally start to emerge and assert itself. To finally say, essentially, "stop that", "leave me alone", "I hate you", "I'm angry", "I'm sad", "I don't want that", "I want this". Instead of the old overriding program of "it doesn't matter what I feel, want or need. I'm here to attend to you, and as long as I'm doing that you'll take care of me and I'll feel safe and worthy enough to carry on."
So yes, the pouring forth of these unconscious contents. Old buried feelings and stuffed past truths spilling out into the present. It seems to be reaching a point where more deliberate tempering and expression are becoming available. Where I might be able to see them coming up, acknowledge them and choose a more appropriate adult response. Not denying and suppressing them anymore, but expressing them more deliberately and tactfully, sometimes after processing them on my own or in other ways first. It reminds me of the buddhist concept of skillful means. God I hated that idea before, when I so desperately wanted to be myself and stop being so contrived and controlled. But I'm starting to get it now. It's a way to have your cake and eat it too. You have to share pieces of the cake, thoughtfully, not carelessly gobble it down or chuck it at others. Otherwise no one will come to the next party. That's just how the cookie crumbles. Pie.
So I guess it's time to start walking this tightrope more deliberately. Learning and practicing expressing and asserting the feelings, needs, desires, preferences and thoughts of the true ego/self while causing minimal destruction to those around me. Hopefully not falling back into the old pattern of blaming them for the stress and setbacks I'm experiencing while learning to live more skillfully.
It's kind of a game, really. Whatever way I play, the end result is death at some point or other. So why not play? Sure I'll suck at it for a while, but I seem to have an above average likelihood of excelling eventually. I'll just have to take it slow, and learn to take ownership and responsibility without taking on blame or shame so I don't fall back into delusion, depression and resentment. To slowly step into my own power, and hopefully one day stay there. Always keeping in mind that my response is up to me, is coming from me. It's always my choices, my feelings, my words that emerge in response to what others bring forth. Others are not responsible for these responses, I am. Others are not at fault either, and neither am I. But I am responsible for how I express myself, and I will experience the effects of those expressions, whether for better or worse. It's part of the game.