In some moments, I experience little struggle with trying to determine what I want to share. I usually write from my heart, and write spontaneously. There is rarely a predetermined plan for what I write about. This has worked well for me to date.
Over the last several weeks, there has been an experience that has occurred that I have wanted to share, but I will admit to feeling hesitation and reserve over the detailing of it. I’ve been holding back, in large part, our of fear for hurting someone. I know this blog is for the most part completely one-sided, in that it is only my perspective that is shared, but I have been conscious and aware of trying to provide a perspective that comes from my heart. They are perspectives shared with the intention of being honest and open, but never with the intent of pulling someone down a peg or two.
I guess in a manner of speaking, this experience that I struggle with in the sharing of it, is another instance where I can practice my own power reclamation. As I have shared countless times now for the most part, a lot of my adult life has involved making decisions based on others. I’ve either chosen to do things, or avoided them based on fear of others’ reactions. I’ve cowered and hid and silenced myself.
I think I would be doing a disservice if I were to continue holding back in this one instance. A disservice to myself.
I’ve always struggled with boundaries in relationships-by relationships, I extend the definition to include all manner of relationships: friendships, work-relationships, partners, familial relationships. While I don’t see myself as the “pusher” of boundaries in my relationships with others, I very much allow my own less abled and poorly defined boundaries to be bulldozed.
In the relationship I am focusing on for the purpose of this particular post, there has been a terrific amount of codependency. My own understanding of codependency, after doing some research on it, is that it is usually found in relationships where there is a dominant individual and a submissive individual. You’ll never guess which description fits me.
This particular relationship has involved a great deal of emotional manipulation. I know in my heart that the other individual does not actively manipulate me with the conscious intention to do so. It ties in with her own belief system and her values. I’m not going to attempt a psychological analysis of why she does what she does, as it is not my place nor my want; I can only detail my own experience.
In allowing myself to have been manipulated by this individual for as long as I have, I have once again given up my power to her. I have given permission to her to seek her own sense of validation and worth at the expense of my own well-being.
It is a really interesting dynamic, mostly because both her and I have a tendency of making everything and turning everything around to be about each of us, respectively speaking. For my part, as I seem to have a masochistic relationship with guilt, I assume all of the fault. If a complete stranger cuts me off in traffic, I assume I was at fault. If a friend is more quiet or down, I assume it is because of something I said or did. I will find whatever reason I can, even if I know on a logical level that I really have nothing to do with it, to make something be my fault. It’s an incredibly narcissistic habit on one hand. To think that I have that much power and sway over others. It’s also an incredibly hurtful manner to live my life in. Continually blaming myself as I am want to do.
For the other person in this dynamic, the turn-around to self is less about assuming guilt and responsibility, but rather more about believing others have wronged her, through various actions. That the actions of someone else-for the purpose of this post, my actions-have had a direct impact on her and have caused her hurt and suffering.
There is, I am realizing, a power struggle going on here, which is interesting considering up until very recently I relinquished all of my own power to her at every moment where I was blamed. Whether it was my needing of some time alone, or more recently my burnout, blame was and has been heavily placed on me. In turn, I would experience tremendous guilt, and would allow myself to be shamed into a repentance of sorts. Sometimes the action that I was blamed for, quite literally had nothing to do with this individual. In a recent exchange, it was shared with me that my own struggles now over these last 6 months have hurt this individual. Not in a manner of empathetic hurt, but in a manner where my decisions on how I chose to deal with what I have been going through, hurt this person.
In a back and forth of exchanges, I struggled with how best to respond. I could see some of the regular manipulation tactics come through in the messages sent to me, and while I recognized them for what they were, I didn’t know how to respond with love while beginning to establish my own boundaries.
Establishing boundaries is new to me, and so, as with any new habit or skill, I have stumbled into it a bit awkwardly and with some uncertainty. Do I respond with blunt honesty, listing out what I am comfortable with and what I won’t tolerate? Do I leave the door to reconciliation open and suggest that if my boundaries make this individual uncomfortable, we can try to compromise?
In the end, and with some assistance from a close friend who knows the relationship I speak of well, I believe I was able to respond with love and respect, both for myself and the other person. I didn’t end up engaging in much of a back and forth. Year-Ago-Me would likely have entered into what would have ended up being a messy exchange, and the power struggle would have thrived, with me feeling like a piece of garbage by the end of it. I stood my ground, and maintained the few boundaries that I was able to establish.
It occurs to me (after Ian reminded me) that I have now had multiple instances over the last several months where I have had to stand up for myself in ways I have never done before.
I had to stand up for myself in June, when I recognized I was burnt out. My then boss-who responded with amazing compassion and kindness-had made some suggestions for taking a leave of absence, or extended sick leave, but I was able to hold onto what my heart was telling me, and I expressed my needs, albeit through tears and a shaky voice.
I have had to continually stand my ground with regards to my decision to break from work in order to recover and heal. I’ve had a few people close to me suggest that too much time off from work would be detrimental and that I should probably get my act in gear and start job hunting sooner rather than later. In these instances, I have again returned to my heart and listened, and have in turn been able to express my own thoughts and opinions.
A few weeks ago I maintained my boundaries for what I believe constitutes friendship and stood up for myself.
The opportunities in which I can practice standing up for myself seem to be continually presenting themselves, and I think they serve as just that: a means to practice. Each instance where I have had to stand up for myself has been challenging and uncomfortable. It’s a muscle I’ve only begun to develop and as such the act of it is still foreign and unfamiliar to me.
I know though, with continued practice and time, I’ll get better and better.