Frequently in therapy, I see families attempting to coax one another to change. Negotiation, compromise, accommodation and manipulation are all really big parts of relationships. So are acceptance, tolerance and what I call releasing.
As we walk through life we all develop a world view, whether it be based on the experiences we have had, our religious views or beliefs, our political slants or a thousand other things that happen in and around us. We each walk through life with a pen, writing out our own personal manifesto. These things include answers to questions about why we are here, how we should live, what is right and wrong, what we should invest our lives in doing. As much as we enjoy classifying our society in to neat little philosophical boxes, perhaps to protect ourselves from engaging too much with people who would despise us, our manifestos and world views are as unique as our finger prints, irises and strands of DNA. And we are very passionate about them.
We are so passionate about them, that we allow them to dictate who we love, who we have compassion for, and who we let share our table. Or world views will lead us to cut children from our lives, abandon partners, and stop calling our lonely grandmothers. You would think that our world views were the single most important thing about us.
I used to be a passionate person when it came to my world view. I felt so right, so sure, so convinced that I was on the right side of common sense and history that I would frequently get in vigorous debate with anyone willing. I wanted to change people’s minds. I wanted to make people more like me and I was constantly giving advice. I was also growing more embittered at how few people were taking my sage advice and continuing down their selected paths of destruction. How could they be so foolish? After a lot of counseling, I discovered that my passion in convincing others had nothing to do with how right I felt I was, but how wrong I was scared I was. I didn’t suffer from confidence, I suffered from doubt. I needed to coax others to join my way because I deep down I was not convinced. Unfortunately during that time of my life, I not only alienated others from me, but I alienated parts of myself from myself. When you alienate parts of you from you, you end up pretty miserable.
You also end up pretty miserable if the only solution you can fathom will fix a particular relationship is for another person to conform to your way of thinking. This is not only unfair, but pretty impossible as the more you push, the further away they will go. This brings us back to the concept of releasing. I’m quite sure that it’s my own world view that leads me to believe this, but I’ll say it anyway. Each of us is on our own path. While our paths might look different there are elements of our journey that are very similar. We must create our own world view. We must suffer our own pain. We must chase our own hearts and feel the subsequent heartbreak or fulfillment. We must live congruently with what unfolds inside of us. To demand, require, or manipulate others into being more like us will only end up pushing those others further from us in the end. You can’t make your grandparents vote for your party. You can’t make your kids follow your religion. You cant make your uncle stop drinking, or keep your sister from marrying that guy. You can only release people to walk their own path, in their own time, and follow their own heart wherever that might lead. Release others to make their own mistakes. Release others to follow their own passions and joys. Release them to experience their faith. Release them to try new things. Release them to start a new journey. Release them to bloom into themselves.
*disclaimer* I know there are some folks out there who immediately came up with 8-10 scenarios where it is imperative that we stop people from following a path. Here are some: when plotting a murder, when contemplating suicide, when abusing/neglecting children, or when leading a genocidal revolution. Obviously, there are circumstances during which people should not be allowed to follow their path without a huge fight. Almost always those exceptions are in the event that someone’s life is in jeopardy. Hopefully you have read this article in view of lesser offenses of circumstances that are matters more of faith and opinion. You might also have found yourself conflicted about a particular situation you are facing. As always, the articles in this blog are not meant as professional advice for your specific situation. Seeking your own dedicated professional counselor will help you untangle your own thinking and find the path meant for you.