If you follow my articles, you realize that the last four were somewhat redundant. The names and content differed somewhat, but basically the message was exactly the same. In the first two articles, I wrote about how individuals in conflicted relationships have to “go inside to get out.” You have to look at what’s going on in you to determine the why’s and wherefore’s of your own reactions to whatever situation you find yourself in. The second two articles dealt with asking “where”, as opposed to “why” questions. It more or less repeated the same message, but strove to say, before you blame someone else and give yourself an easy out, ask yourself, “where am I coming from?” Because, how you react to others, without any doubt in the world, is determined by what’s going on inside you, what has influenced you in the past, and what has contributed to the defense mechanisms you presently use to achieve an end you desire, or protect you from emotional hurt and pain.
The reason for my redundancy is that, if I had only one message to convey to every patient I have ever seen, it would be the same. “Look at where you’re coming from. Ask what determines your actions or lack of action and/or your impulsive, knee-jerk behaviors that perseverate through every stress situation you experience.” I would further suggest that, when you can honestly look at yourself and understand the origin of your behaviors, thoughts and feelings, you will experience little difficulty in dealing with the conflicts you face, and the stress and disappointments you encounter in life.
I know that it’s so much easier to attribute your behaviors to the environment around you, the people you interact with, and/or the sorry state of the world. But those situations, people and states of the world aren’t necessarily unique to you. We all, at least in varying degrees, face the same problems, difficulties and stresses. We all have hopes and plans for our future and, most of all, we all desire someone out there to love, nurture and acknowledge us. Not just for our accomplishments, but perhaps even more so in spite of our failures and shortcomings. It’s hard to admit, but truly none of us are totally unique individuals. I think I recall someone saying, “Always remember, you’re unique - just like everyone else.” When you accept that, you’ll come to realize that human beings share a good deal of the same emotions, hopes, wishes and fears, but they go about demonstrating those emotions by radically different modes of behavior. In the end, the force driving every one of us is to be recognized, valued, nurtured and loved. By virtue of that, I firmly believe it is only after you develop some degree of acceptance of yourself that you will ever be able to live in this world in a healthy manner. Does that mean you will no longer experience stress or anxious moments? That things won’t excite, overwhelm or cause you to feel depressed? Absolutely not! We’re not talking about nirvana or heaven, we’re talking about coping with whatever we encounter during the short span of years we have here on earth. There are various directions you can take to achieve that state, but to be successful, you need a foundation based on understanding of self, owning who you are, accepting and forgiving the shortcomings you feel, and being able to appreciate the attributes and talents you possess. Once you can come to peace with you, your wherewithal to cope with others will become comfortable and stress free. Think about it. Someone says, two and two equal six. If you’re at peace with yourself, you might say, “You might want to reconsider that. I think it’s four.”
But you won’t find a need to argue, fight and demand that they accept what you think or know to be true. You don’t have anything to prove, or anything to fight about because you’re at peace with you. Similarly, if your child strikes out at bat in Little League, isn’t the best student in his or her class, or doesn’t get into the finest University, when you’re at peace with yourself, you’re happy for whatever accomplishments he/she achieves. You won’t feel the need to push them, criticize them, find fault with, or control them. Why? Because you’ve learned to accept your own shortcomings and to recognize that, although you may not be the best, you’re okay because you’re you. And, by virtue of that viewpoint, you’re able to share the same message with your child, your spouse and/or your friends.
Further, when or if your spouse rejects, neglects, or threatens you, you won’t become hysterical. Instead, you’ll be able to point out their behavior and say, “You could have said ‘I’m so happy to be home. I really need to lean on you.’ I know you’re stressed and pressured, but you’re demonstrating it in a critical, fault-finding manner. Even more, I know something is really bothering you, but it isn’t me. I’m here to support you, because I love you and hate to see you so emotionally upset. At the same time, you can’t use me as your whipping post. It only makes me distance myself from you.”
I could share countless other examples of people who can’t take criticism, are quick to become angry, feel depressed, or are reluctant to get close or show emotions. In every instance, I’d say that, to the degree they need to defend themselves, can’t admit their failures or allow themselves to be vulnerable, is the degree to which they aren’t at peace with, or haven’t accepted who they are. The lesson they and each of you have to learn is that you can’t fix you when you focus on others.
I hope that, to some degree, I’ve been able to more clearly explain why I felt it necessary to so strongly emphasize that you have to “go in before you can go out”; i.e., you have to deal with self before you can adequately deal with others. Please forgive my redundancy, but try to use my examples to look at yourself and ask, “What will it take for me to be at peace with me?” Let me tell you the answer: be transparent, be vulnerable, be open, be accepting and forgiving of yourself and, most of all, be appreciative of your blessings.