Why Do I Have To Be The One Who _________?

Why do I have to be the one who ________?

Have you ever found yourself asking this question as you have struggled to sort out a difficult relationship? You know. One of those relationships when you have felt like you are on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviour on someone else’s part? When you have felt like someone else is projecting their issues onto you? When you have just wanted THEM to do their part, apologize, figure it out, leave you alone?

I have been in this place more often than I care to remember. And I encounter it often in training and coaching situations. Why do I have to be the one to “fix” this? Why do I have to be the one who reaches out? Why do I have to be the one to forgive? Why do I have to be the one who takes the lead on this? I am not at fault here!

bandaged heartEven in times when I felt I had made enormous strides, I was sometimes challenged on playing the victim role. Ugh! There is nothing pretty or powerful about that. Nothing. Once, when I asked this question, the energy healer I was working with challenged me with a good hearty, joyful laugh. “Because,” she said. “When you do this, you win.” Resignedly, reluctantly, I did the work – MY work. Because she was right.

It is simple really. When you do the work you need to do in your own journey – which for me I have named the Journey to Openheartedness – you win. Always. Inevitably. This is not winning like winning and losing. This is winning like peace in your soul. Winning like stepping into your strength and power, not because of someone else, but because it is the right thing for you. Winning like clarity of who you are, what you stand for, what you will stand in your life.

Palms holding a beet shaped like a heart

Palms holding a beet shaped like a heart

And what you learn sorting out one tough relationship is translatable to all your relationships. When you sort it out with yourself, you stand differently in every context, not just the one you sorted it out in. You begin to discern more often more quickly what is yours to do and what belongs to someone else. You leave them to do whatever they choose with their stuff – hang onto it, release it – it is not your business what they do or don’t do – and you focus on what is yours to do.

It sounds simple when I write it or say it. It can be. Honestly, though, it is can also be an intense, intentional journey over a long period of years. While it could be true (and the Law of Attraction would say it is true) that you could shift everything literally overnight, that is not my experience, nor the experience of people I know. As one of my coaches said to me, you can do the energetic, non-physical work in an instant. But then you need to ground it in physical experience, shifting patterns that you have taken years or even a life time to grow. It is an invitation to stay in your journey, despite setbacks, despite not seeing progress, despite experiencing the same patterns over and over again. Until the day it shifts. When you notice something has changed. Sometimes when other people have noticed something has changed.

You can continue to give away your power by stubbornly holding onto the notion that someone else needs to do the work – and it is hard to pry away that thought (I know) – or you can step into the fullness of who you are – one step at a time, embrace all that shows up, give thanks for the person and the learning, acknowledge and own your own growth. After awhile, the difficult situations do diminish, you stop focusing on other people and what they do or do not do and you simply focus on what is present and alive for you, in any given moment.

CA red dress Day 1It is worth it. I tell you that from my own open hearted healing journey. I wouldn’t have it any other way – now.

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Extending Love – A Powerful Game Changer

A long time ago now, I was studying A Course In Miracles. The most striking thing I learned, that has stayed with me for more than a decade, is that everything is either an extension of love or a request for love.

hurt-people Thich Naht HanhI reflect on it often. It seemed improbable when I first heard it, but in my own journey to openheartedness, embracing all that shows up on my path, the meaning of it has seeped into my being. The implications are profound. It is top of mind for me as I see posts on social media reminding us that “hurt people hurt people”, an adaptation of Thich Naht Hahn’s quote, and as I see quotes about forgiveness.

When someone issues a request for love it does not come in a question. It comes in behaviour that looks like anything but a request for love. Actually asking for what we need puts us in a place of vulnerability and for many of us this is a fate almost worse than death.

A request for love often looks and feels like an attack. The default is to respond with your own request for love. Attack meets attack. Defence meets defence. And the game is on. Not only is it on, it is hard to break the pattern. It is a vortex we get sucked into. Until we don’t. Until we become conscious of the pattern, our own contribution to it and set an intention to step out of the pattern, dance a new dance.

bandaged heartAn extension of love does not come at the sacrifice of you and who you are. It cannot truly come at the subjugation of yourself because then you are still acting from the place of requesting love. You can only extend love to another once you have extended it to yourself. The more you extend love to yourself, the more capacity you have to extend it to another person, the more likely you are to break the patterns.

A beautiful side benefit is that you fuel your own boundaries. It is much harder for someone to “request love” through an attack when your boundaries are clear – first to yourself, then to others.

When you understand that when someone is behaving inappropriately, it is a reflection of their own internal state of being – it really is more about them than you – it can change how you respond. When you change the way you respond, you can change the nature of the relationship. If it is an intimate relationship where you are at risk, it does not mean you stay. But you exit differently. When you extend love to yourself, you will not put yourself at risk or stay in a situation of risk.

forgiveness quoteWhen you can forgive someone for their behaviours or actions, it does not condone or excuse their behaviour but it releases their grasp on you. As long as you hold onto the pain, they continue to have power over you – essentially you give your power away. Forgiveness is a means of reclaiming your power. Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

It is easier to forgive if you can see past the behaviours of the other person, to the child within, see their soul essence, see the request for love as what it is – an expression of their own pain, their own desire for connection – with an inability to articulate it, possibly even to themselves. It becomes easier to extend love to the person and bring the whole situation to a higher vibration. This does not mean you do not act in ways that are appropriate to the situation, but the range of options you can draw on expand, sometimes exponentially, when you are in the place of extending love to the person or situation.

Reclaim your power. Step into it fully. Extend love every chance you get.

All Things Are Here – In My Life and Experience – By My Invitation

When my youngest son was a toddler and a preschooler, he could throw a temper tantrum like I had never experienced before or maybe even believed possible.  He could throw them in private at home and he could also throw them in public places, equally well.  I once did my whole grocery shopping with him in a fit because my options were limited.  When he was in a tantrum, which could be set off by seemingly inane things, he was beside himself, working himself up into more of a tempest with each minute that passed. Yelling.  Screaming. Throwing himself around. He was truly inconsolable and, believe me, we tried many different ways to soothe him. Nothing worked.  Anything tried only made him worse, as well meaning friends and strangers sometimes found out.  He needed to exhaust himself from whatever swirl of emotions was in him.  When he was done, he was done.  He was ready for apple juice and a snuggle, to let go of where he had been and to move forward – almost as if nothing had happened.

I have no idea how many temper tantrums he threw.  Enough to observe a wide range of reactions and responses in myself.  Learning, as difficult as it was, he needed to be left alone, to be in his own journey of discovery of how to self regulate.  It was challenging to bear witness to and challenging as a mother to seem to have no strategies of success to help him feel better.  So many things activated in me – disappointment, frustration, my own rage, sadness, despair, feelings of failure – as a mother and a person.  Also fear when that moment became projected into the future and images of this child as a temper tantrum throwing adult made me fear he would not find his way in the world, find his way to maturity.  Learning not to personalize his behaviour, not to make it about me instead of about his experience. Learning patience, to move at the pace of guidance – one of the seven whispers in Christina Baldwin’s book of the same name.

Maybe the most significant learning was in letting go.  After what could sometimes be an hour or more of a temper tantrum, my son was ready to let it go.  An awareness and curiosity arose in me as I pondered what seems like typical adult reactions – the desire to make it about the relationship, to see it as personal attack, to want the other person to suffer as much as we perceive that we have suffered at their hands, as a result of their behaviour. “Just because you’re done, doesn’t mean it’s over. Now you need to bear the consequences of what you just did – to me.”  We want to stay grumpy even when the other person has moved beyond it.  Why do we do that? He was not angry at me.  He was not deliberately trying to ruin my day.  He was caught up in his own experience.

Staying grumpy, staying mad, seeking retribution, sometimes seeking apology, wanting the other person to admit they are wrong, are ways of externalizing our power – giving it away to someone else.  A toddler in a temper tantrum.  A person we care about in their own disruption or projection.  We want them to make it better.  We want them to pay. And who does it serve to be that way?  No one.  Especially not us. Not the relationship either.

“In my life, I have told many stories that externalize or give away my power.  Learning to own my own experience and my own power has been and continues to be a significant part of my journey.”  Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness (Chapter 1)

Candle in hands

All of this has me reflecting on relationships – the ebb and flow, beauty and challenge that show up, sometimes in equal measure although sometimes it just seems that way, because of where we focus our attention.  When we have an argument with someone dear to us, sometimes that argument and the energetic imprint of it takes precedence and becomes the defining energy of the relationship.  If we focus on it, focus on how wronged we feel, that is what we grow.  But we have a choice.  We could choose to focus on the beauty, the joy, the qualities of the other person that we admire, adore and love.  They are there in equal measure and often more.  These could be the defining qualities of the relationship.

To know we have choice invites us into self reflection and self hosting – to discern what is our own to take care of and what needs to be taken care of in relationship, so it does not become the shadow underbelly given life by trying to repress it. This is a discernment and we may not always get it right.  But what if we could be in relationship in an attitude of appreciation, love and forgiveness?  How would that change the dynamic, flow and connection in relationship in contrast to when we focus on the moments of hurt, pain, disappointment?

I often need to remind myself that “all things are here by my invitation or attraction of them in one way or another.  If I were not attracting these experiences, the insights that arise from them could not be in my experience.  This includes people, events, situations, timing and flow.” Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness Chapter 1.  This is the invitation to hosting myself, to be self reflective.  If I can find clarity in this, then I can know how to show up in relationship, what I can heal within myself and what I need to bring to the relationship, not through righteousness or justification but through generosity and curiosity to understand how to deepen relationship, to create the invitational space to show up in the fullness of who we both are as human beings – in our strength and our vulnerability, to not feel the need to hide or the need to defend.

“With great intentionality, I have been shifting my focus to tell more and more of the stories of appreciation, gratitude and love.  I am telling more of the stories of the way I want my life to be rather than of how I don’t want it to be.” Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness Chapter 1.  And this is an ongoing, often daily practice.  It would be so much easier to live a cocooned life but people are always going to show up in one way or another no matter how hard we might try to shut them out.  Easier isn’t necessarily better.  The opportunity for growth shows up in those moments, invited whether we think they are or not.

A beautiful example is my son.  Not a toddler anymore.  A young person who has been learning how to self regulate his emotional experience who no longer throws temper tantrums.  Now it is a beautiful journey to witness.  He is such an old soul teacher for me in this journey to openheartedness, embracing all that shows up on the path.

Embracing Projection

One of the ways we distance ourselves from the stranger within is by projecting our issues, our own shadow, on to someone else, as if they were really someone else’s issues or someone else’s fault.  We do this with greater and lessor degrees of consciousness.  Every one of us has projected onto others at some point and we have all been the subject of projection too.

Projecting onto others is a way of externalizing the source of our pain.  This happens when we are afraid to examine how we might be the source of our own pain.  It is easier to blame someone else and we can become quite skilled in rationalizing why it is about someone else rather than ourselves.  It is one more way of giving power and voice away.

“We cannot get from others what we have not given ourselves. We cannot receive all the goodness, love, beauty, and joy that is awaiting us if we shut it out, if we believe ourselves unworthy.” ~ Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

Sunset at the lake in Lake Park, MN

Sunset at the lake in Lake Park, MN

Learning to embrace that which we want to project, brings it home for healing. When we can do this we reclaim our power, reclaim our voice.

The other side of this is when we are the subject of projection.  It can be confusing when we are on the receiving end of projection.  It can appear in many ways from an angry outburst to a very logical rationalization of why we are portrayed as the antagonizer of the other person, why they somehow cannot do better, why they are stuck – because of something they believe we have done, somehow we have held them back – or so they want to believe.

One of the ways we can recognize projection is by the energetic impact that comes with it.  This energetic impact is often what creates the confusion within us, especially if we are new to the awareness of being projected upon.  For myself, I use to take it on, figuring there must be something wrong with me, something I could fix to make everything all right.  I gradually became aware that not all that was being projected onto me was mine. Then I needed to learn to discern what was mine to work on and what belonged to the person doing the projecting so I could let it go.  The mantra, “no one can create in my reality unless I let them” became a life affirming guide in the journey.

The fear was that what was projected on to me was my stranger in action, the stranger in me that I felt needed to be disarmed.  But the only way to disarm what we perceive to be the stranger is to embrace it. In the embracing of it we “take whole”, as my partner Jerry Nagel says in his work on World View, and we once again step into our power and our voice, inviting us into openheartedness in whole new ways.

The journey to open heartedness is not about being exposed in a way that is threatening or harmful.  It is about waking up and opening to the full range of emotional melody that resides within us—the full range, the rich textures of symphony that wants to make itself heard, not just a narrow range of notes played in isolation.  Through the journey to openheartedness, I am learning to live in and with vulnerability—not as weakness but as strength—and I am relying on emotions as a guidance system that is unfailing the more I learn how to use it.” ~ Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

My emotional guidance system will tell me when I am projecting, when I am being projected on, as I listen to it. It then is also a guide on what aspects of me, of the stranger in me, need to be embraced into wholeness of being.