The most significant intimate relationship in my life so far has also been the craziest. By “crazy” I simply mean that we were both surely insane together.
We took each other into the darkest, most absurd realms of insecure, aggressive and offensive conversation that neither of us could have imagined we’d ever encounter in a “romantic” relationship. Although we did stop short of actually killing each other - and sometimes I wonder how short - it was downright awful at times.
However, through that experience I also learned an incredibly liberating distinction:
I don’t ever have to convince anyone of anything about me (or anything else, for that matter).
Never mind our childish verbal communication, you should have seen the ridiculously long emails, endlessly scrolling text messages and rapid-fire facebook posts we would throw back and forth at each other. I, meticulous practitioner of the art of communication, would lay out my every essential, nuanced point in numbered bullet format with key phrases bolded or italicized, sentences scrubbed over and over for clarity and brevity, each word carefully chosen to ensure one desired outcome: that she finally “get” exactly whatever it was I was desperately pointing at.
Sound at all familiar?
Of course, at best her response would perplex me and suggest she’d barely read what I so carefully wrote. At worst, she would respond as if I’d only sent her a picture of a giant middle-finger with her face on the fingernail.
Either way, she would only come back to re-assert her original position on whatever imagined slight of the moment we were in upset about. I, now with even deeper certainty of my righteousness, would once again launch into a fresh reshaping of my perspective, believing THIS time it would finally fit in her throat as I worked to thrust it down with scant mercy.
Thus, we washed each other with mud, rinsed off with glue, and repeated for about 5 years.
Why was I so desperate to make her think like me?
Actually, I know why. She criticized me a lot, and somewhere deep inside I believed in her criticism, and so it hurt. If I could only get her to stop and see me in a different light, then I believed I wouldn’t hurt inside anymore.
I didn’t realize the only person that really needed to stop criticizing me was ... myself.
Her words hurt me because I believed them. If I didn’t believe them, they couldn’t possibly have hurt. Sure, it might have been disappointing that this woman I wanted to love so deeply couldn’t see the brilliant, innocent child of the universe that I actually am - that we all are. But at least I wouldn’t have taken it so personally. I would have understood she was just having a nightmare and that no amount of my impassioned protesting was going to awaken her from an illusion she wasn’t much willing to examine.
By taking her on and resisting her world view, by working so passionately to change it, I only gave it more power. What we resist indeed persists. I proved it in that relationship.
Since learning that lesson, it’s been among the most liberating experiences of my life to simply allow people whatever viewpoints they choose to believe in.
Admittedly, it’s a work in progress. When I believe passionately in a thought, an idea, a perspective or a story, and I simply think it’s “right”, I can be tempted to fight for its survival if someone threatens to invalidate it. I turn into an extreme “thought-conservationist” willing to employ any measure to prevent my idea from extinction at the hands of some thought-poacher only hunting in ignorance.
But that’s just more insane thinking at play.
It’s actually the easiest thing in the world to let someone else think whatever they want to think.
What do I really gain when someone agrees with or validates me? A good feeling? I can feel good regardless whether anyone agrees with me.
It doesn’t mean I have to hang around and stay in the conversation. In fact, with my ex, I bet one of two scenarios would have played out had I simply stopped trying to take her perspectives away from her: (1) she would have eventually grown weary of hearing herself repeatedly tell the same negative stories about me and shifted naturally to see me in a different light; or (2) I would have simply stopped resonating with the negative tone of the conversation and left years before I actually did.
But I needed to stay in there and battle it out for one reason: she brought me face to face with my deepest fears about myself. She gave me the opportunity to explore and ultimately discover that all those negative, critical thoughts I also believed about myself ... well, that they just weren’t true.
It was the greatest gift because now I realize I don’t have to convince anyone of anything. I'm only ever trying to convince myself, anyway. But I’m not perfect. I still mess up sometimes. I’m human just like everyone else and still have to work at living an authentic life with heart-centered intentions. But I don’t have to convince anyone that I’m worthy of respect, kindness, consideration, and love; that I’m essentially an innocent child of the Uni-verse consistently doing the best I know to do. I don’t have to defend what I think or make anyone think like me.
If someone doesn’t resonate with who they believe I am ... well, isn’t it just the most delicious thing in the world to be with people who genuinely appreciate you for who you are today?
That’s what I’m calling into my life!
But the only way I’ll do that is to stop trying to convince anyone of anything.
Are you struggling to convince someone in your life to see the world - or you - in a different light? How’s that working out? What’s the worst that could happen if you simply let them think what they think?
INSPIRED QUOTE OF THE BLOG
“We don’t describe the world we see, we see the world we describe.” ~ Joseph Jaworski