Unapologetic, Authentic, Benign.
I am moved — captivated, curious, and always delightfully beguiled — by the ups and downs of relationship with others.
And, as those who know me can attest, I am particularly interested in working with challenges in a relationship.
What do we do when we get triggered — annoyed, frustrated, frightened — by someone we like or love? How do we hold ourselves when someone comes to us in crisis? How do we keep our center when we feel we are being antagonized or attacked?
These questions are vital and alive to me, and they keep me on my toes, alive to the delicious expansion of my spirit that is continually arising in my relationships — even when it feels the opposite!
It’s easy to get caught up in the results of our actions, but it really is such a vital shred of wisdom to open the door and begin the process of detaching from outcomes. This is one of the Bhagavad Gita’s most practical pieces of advice (Chapter 2, Verse 47).
And this is utterly important when it comes to relationship with others. I never cease being amazed by the degree of perniciousness of the need to get certain kinds of responses out of other people, and how much manipulation is present in even the most ordinary conversations.
I catch myself at it so often. And yet, when we come into conflict, our need to extract certain responses and behaviors out of other people becomes really problematic.
Recently, I came into conflict with someone I like very much. I felt that this person had spoken to me in a way that was unacceptable to me.
Now, in the past, this would have left me in a real pickle, because I would be looking for ways to avoid confronting the issue. I would have been much, much angrier at having been spoken to like that to start with, and I would have been more afraid to speak up and set a boundary.
In fact, I might not have said anything at all and allowed my feelings to fester, or pretended it was okay.
I won’t say I wasn’t a little nervous in speaking up, but I really knew I had to, in order to model what I teach in my immersions and trainings, and in order to uphold my integrity. This kind of talk is not okay with me, and I needed to let this person know.
In preparation for this talk, I held three words close as guidance for how to face this moment — and I can truly say I feel my response was an embodiment of them.
Unapologetic: I have a right to be alive, because I am alive. It’s natural and totally justified for me to feel the way I do, and to make my choices in life as I see fit. I don’t need to explain myself unless I want to, and I don’t need to look to any standard outside of my own self for any justification for any of my choices.
Authentic: I am as I am, not as anyone else is, and my behavior is a reflection of what is really true for me, and not what I think is palatable to anyone else.
Benign: Me being me is enough, and my choices can come from a space of ease and non-contraction. I am not trying to prove anything.
This last one is a real zinger. It means, wait it out until you find peace. Let that trigger cool as much as you can. There’s nothing to prevent or force at all. For this principle I can thank Roger Linden, who has been a support in my life for nigh on 7 years — a great therapist and awakened being of North London.
Here’s the thing:
If we approach a conflict without a confidence in our own basic right to be and to feel, without a grounding in what’s actually true, and with an axe to grind, we are only going to hurt others and get hurt. Bottom line.
And coming down all over someone when they have done this or that — making them bad or wrong — doesn’t help matters. Neither does banging on about how everyone else you have talked to agrees with you, nor does apologizing for having to say this, or apologizing for feeling the way that you do.
How many times have one of those three responses been a part of your way of being with conflict?
Here’s what I reckon is important: What do you want/need in the situation? Are you willing to:
Ask for that clearly and without threats?
Deal with whatever comes after you ask for it?
In other words, are you comfortable with walking away? Are you willing to fully face whatever this person’s response is, and stand your ground? Because I was.
I would way prefer to keep this person in my life — for sure. But the reason I was able to be clear about how I felt and what I wanted — which is to not be spoken to in that manner again — is because I have come to the conclusion in my life that just about anything is better than accepting certain energies of disrespect in my life.
And I am willing to walk on whatever coals present themselves in order to have peaceful, dynamic, engaged, loving relationships. Everything else can take a hike. This brand of maturity has been hard-earned for me — but I have learned:
Respect for myself is respect for all life.
It is my highest value — and, excepting truly extraordinary circumstances, I am willing to walk the line for this one.
So how did it turn out? Well, I was immediately offered an apology, but I hung in there through waves of mildly heated conversation until I was sure I had been heard. Although it is very nice to receive one, I didn’t really want an apology.
What I wanted was an understanding that kind of talk isn’t okay for me.
In the past, when people have approached me with an energy that was aggressive, I have often taken it — essentially, taken on the shit — and then spent forever after thinking about how this person shouldn’t be like this, how wrong it is.
I have held back from confronting them, because what I really wanted was to educate them about their wrongness.
In this case, I felt free from that. I was free to be benign. Now, it does indeed strike me that kind of talk — that tone, that aggression — is what I would call a sub-optimal way of relating. But it’s really not up to me to educate anyone about how they should and shouldn’t be.
I earnestly have no idea how anyone else should be. Unless I am being asked for advice, I don’t need to offer it.
And so all I shared was this:
That’s not okay with me. Please don’t speak to me that way again.
And ultimately I was indeed heard — and deeply respected. My friend agreed to not use that tone with me again.
And so, what could have been a long-time grudge, or a down-leveling of trust, became instead a satisfying up-leveling of communication between two essentially wonderful humans.
How perfectly delicious!