Integrative / Intuitive Health and Empowerment Coaching
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Catch your thoughts....
April 19, 2014
My Reason for being...
May 1, 2013
'Guilty of Libel...?'
June 3, 2014
Revisiting the question: What message does your relationship with yourself give others?
March 27, 2014
I am sat in Starbucks, with a new friend, talking about our past relationships. You know, as we girls do…. We are surprised to find that we have both come though, and learned the hard lessons from, abusive relationships. My friend has been a ‘repeat offender’, having come through one and entered into another. I had too. In fact, I was a serious offender! Over the next couple of hours, we pondered the ‘repeat offender’ syndrome. Why is it that so many women, and indeed men, will escape one abusive relationship only to fall head long into another?
This brought me back to a journal entry I had made just over a year ago and also, a book I had been reading about sociopathy and the fact that it affects 1-4% of the population; how the sociopaths often go unnoticed, have no conscience and prey on those with a high level of empathy. Sure enough, from this stand point we can each identify ourselves as the ‘empath’ in those relationships. The ‘fixers’. The ‘change agents’.,,,
What ensued was an animated conversation about our self awareness, learning to love ourselves, and ultimately, the reasons why we are now both so passionate about empowering women and helping them take what, for so many, are the challenging steps to independence and healthy relationships.
Indeed, quite the conversation for a Tuesday morning in Starbucks! (The book, by the way, is by Jane and Jim McGregor and is called 'The Empathy Trap' (UK version) and 'The Sociopath at the Breakfast Table: Recognizing and Dealing with Antisocial and Manipulative People' (US version) I highly recommend it to anybody, but especially those who have been subject to an abusive relationship).
When I reached home, I revisited that journal entry I had referred to and sent it along to my friend, asking her to consider the question I had posed back then: ‘What message does your relationship with yourself give others?'
Sure enough, we each recognize within ourselves the differences between the ’self’ then, when we attracted the abusive relationships, and the ‘self’ now. ’Now’ is a far healthier place. I first realized that I had reached that place 12 months ago, when I considered this same question for the first time. In fact, it was at that point I had realized how easy it was to slip back into the old, unhealthy. relationship habit. I have to stress here, as I did then, that at no point have I ever considered my marital relationship abusive. No, far from it! I refer to the relationships in my childhood and my first adult relationships which were terribly abusive and full of rejection. And although my marriage ultimately ended in rejection, I apportion no blame.
Back to today. My curiosity has brought me once again to that same question. I wondered how my answers would compare to those 12 months before. The results are really quite interesting and demonstrate my continued growth and self awareness. And it felt so good not to be asking myself these questions to 'clear the fog…’ No, the view is a whole lot clearer now, and that is such an absolutely, fantastic feeling!
So, here goes...
Is there an equal amount of say in the plans, or does one person in the relationship usually make the decision?
Do I agree to wait for someone, just in case there is a plan?
Do I find myself getting anxious when there are no solid plans but am still unable to ask for a plan or denied the opportunity to ask for a plan?
When someone is consistently late, how does that make me feel?
Do I feel like I am being a nag or a drag if I ask someone not to be late?
Would I dare ask them not to be late?
Am I outspoken about my disappointments in relationships?
Do I feel like I don’t really have a right to ask for fair treatment?
What would scare me about asking for fair treatment?
Do I feel like the success of the relationship depends on me?
Do I feel like the relationship depends on how compliant I am; on how cooperative I am; on how little I ask for?
If I don’t believe that I am worthy of fair treatment, how will someone else know that I am?
I am talking about equal value. That if someone wants to wait until the last minute to make plans with me, and it bothers me, then why am I not willing to say that it bothers me or that I feel it is unfair treatment of me?
Where do these feelings come from?
When did I learn that asking for equal value and fair treatment was wrong or that I am not as deserving of it as someone else is?
So, my initial thoughts are how much more ‘laid back’ I am! I used to be so uptight! And that really was not that long ago. Maybe we naturally become this way as we become older and dare I say, wiser? I still recognize the ‘old me’… but she is becoming less familiar. I look back and I see a wounded woman. Hurt. Defensive. Angry. Jealous. Insecure… terribly insecure.
‘Decisions’. Yes, often, I would make the decisions in a relationship, be it dating, marriage or friendship. I needed to feel in control. My marriage provided that for me, but I would quite happily have had the decisions made for me. The responsibility of being ‘the strong one’, weighed heavy. But I was secure in my relationship. He was my ‘everything’… but on reflection, maybe that was an insecurity?? Anyway, I held on so tight to him. He was my rock My life bouy in a sea that was stormy and doing its best to pull me down… And outside of my marriage, in that sea, I had to be ‘in control’. I look back and wonder how my friends put up with me! But some of my earlier adult friendships and relationships were very different. The decisions were all made for me. From what I could and could not wear, the language I was allowed to speak, books I was allowed to read, music that was suitable for me to listen to. Even which friends were to be approved, or not…
Now, that sea is so much calmer. I am much calmer. Did I create all the turmoil? No, I was usually blamed for it, eacted to it and contributed. These days, I am more than happy to go along with whatever. But! If I don’t want to, I won’t. Simple as. The woman who stands in front of me in the mirror nowadays is strong. Confident. Happy. Sexy. Secure. I see a life in my eyes that I had rarely seen before… I see a smile that is no longer gummy and ugly… No. I see a smile that is self assured and cannot be held back.
‘Secure'. Yes, I am secure. Who would believe it? I’m a single mum, living alone, with the responsibility of a household and a teenage son. No family to help me. But I am more secure now than ever before. I have friends. Precious, beautiful friends. I have my chosen siblings and family, and am surrounded by more love and security than ever before. My ex-husband is still there too. He will always be there, for me and our son, and vice versa. I am a very, very lucky lady.
‘Plans'. Hmmm…. if there were no solid plans in place, I had ‘no control’ and that made me feel so insecure. Uncertain. Unsure. I cannot deny that I still like ‘a plan’… and I certainly wouldn’t wait on somebody else to make them for me. Hell no! I’m a ‘doer’. But now, I actually quite like the excitement that comes with not having a plan. Jump in! Take a risk! Follow your instincts and see where they lead. Believe that something special will happen if you allow it to. That attitude would have thrown me into a spiral of panic a few years ago and I would have judged someone with no plan as disorganized. Now, I rejoice in it! Change and excitement is living. Routine and safe is existing.
‘Late’ Well, I am very rarely late… I used to arrive early for just about everything! I guess that is probably a control thing again. Nowadays, I have been known to go grab a coffee and slow down my pace rather than arrive somewhere too early. 'Fashionably late’ might actually be more my style nowadays…
'Outspoken about disappointing relationships’. That’s a tougher one. I will not shy from telling a person I am disappointed… or hurt. And I have been disappointed and hurt, often. The last time it prompted me to explore my relationship with me and discover the reasons why I had allowed it to happen all over again. In the more recent past, I think I have chosen my friends more wisely. Or maybe I have opened myself up and allowed people in that I wouldn’t have done before? I’m not sure. What I do know, is I still invest heavily. I give my all. I am fiercely loyal and a tough one to ‘shake off’… I used to set myself up to fall. To be failed. I was ‘needy’, so very needy. I was so grateful for somebody’s interest in me, and when the relationship/friendship failed, I was certain it was my fault. I had done something to deserve the rejection. Yes, I truly believed that the relationship was unsuccessful because of my error. So yes, I did believe the success of the relationship depended upon me.
But not so now. No. Not at all. I DO expect equal treatment. But I am not as judgemental, as expecting or as disappointed in myself, or, for that matter, the other person. I think maybe in the past, I tried too hard? I’ve never really understood that phrase. Surely you can never not try hard enough? ‘If a jobs worth doing, its worth doing well’. ‘Friday’s child works hard for a living’, and so on. That was instilled in me from an early age… And nothing, NOTHING, has ever come easy for me. It did for the ‘golden child’, minimal effort and it landed in her lap. Yes, of course I was jealous. But I have always had a grit determination to push myself to my full potential. I don’t think that is such a bad thing. But I recognize that it was developed from an unhealthy need to please. To seek approval. To gain recognition. Now, I push myself to challenge me. To please me. I want to realize my potential. There is a big difference. I can see the old me trying so hard that I would end up compromising myself and my values. Why? Because I was so fearful of rejection. I constantly needed reassurance that the object of my labours felt the same way. Oh how draining that must have been. In actual fact, I probably did push them away… but it was not my fault. Not at all.
When I visited these questions before, I was healing. I told you about a relationship that had taken me back to the unhealthy relationships of yesteryear. We had parted abruptly. No explanation. No closure. I felt the rejection. I hurt. Really hurt. Yes… the ‘REJECT BUTTON’ had been pressed time and again. Yet I continued to set myself up for the inevitable fall. Time and again. Holding onto something, someone, who was not mine to hold onto. I had slipped back into the old pattern. I see now, with even more clarity than I did before, the need to revisit my past through that relationship. I needed to understand so that I could propel myself forward. In moving forward, it was as if I had had to regress, reprocess and then, move on. And that is the key. I did reprocess. I recognized the pattern, and I changed it. I had never had to do that in my 21 years of marriage. I didn’t need to. That part of my self development had been avoided. This was what I needed to complete my healing of me.
I said then, as I say now. I am so grateful for that relationship, and that person, for making me face myself, see myself, understand myself. Over the last 12 months, I have focused on me. On what I REALLY want. On what makes ME happy. On what is important to ME. I have no ‘gaps’ that need filling. I have what I want and I have the motivation to have more. I’ll continue to reach my potential. I’m not there yet. I have more in reserve. I want more financial stability, more education, more entrepreneurial development. I have no need for anything, or somebody, to make me happy. Important to me, is my son, and me, in that order… My life is busy. It is fun, it is challenging and it is satisfying. My life is balanced. The people in my life are beautiful. I now know the true meaning of UNCONDITIONAL love. I receive it as well as give it. I have no regrets. None. I follow my instincts and I trust them. I face the future with energy, enthusiasm and excitement. For the first time I am looking towards my life when my son is an adult and moves on. In my own way, I am preparing.
So back to the original question and my answer. My relationship with me is complete. It is unconditional. It is accepting, strong, loyal. It is balanced, meaningful and respectful. It is fun, exciting, carefree and adventurous. I am unconditionally happy. I do not need to change or to be changed. I can live strong and love strong. My friendships are appreciated, often. Our respect, value and joy are mutual. These beautiful people have helped me to become a whole and I hope that I have in turn, helped them. We navigate the storms when we need and enjoy the calm. And the relationship that ended so abruptly, actually didn’t. It continues. Our parting had to happen so we could both grow as individuals. We now come from a place of individuality and self awareness and our understanding of one other continues to deepen. There are no unknowns. We have known each other at our worst and my instint tells me that we will enjoy each other at our best. There is no dependence upon the other.We have evolved apart and now come together with no expectation. No necessity. We are two whole individual’s who function apart, who are happy apart but bring joy to each other when together. It is simple and uncomplicated.
This has been such a valuable exercise for me. One I would recommend to any reader. And for sure, I will re-visit these questions and reflect another year down the line.