Monday, September 17, 2012

9/18/12—Taking Stock of Our Defenses

Today's Draw: Ash from Rune Cards oracle by Tony Linsell & Brian Partridge. How do you defend yourself in relationships? And how might those defenses emanate from your own fears and issues? What kind of unhealthy relationships seem to be a pattern in your life and what does that reflect back to you?

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of someone from my past and it got me thinking. This is someone I used to be close to, but I moved on from the relationship when it became unhealthy for me. There are a lot of those lost friendships in my life...people you outgrow in one way or another. 

Some of these endings are really just a reflection of who we are at the time. Ladies from my 20s, that I used to go out to bars and parties with, for example. At some point or another, I became less interested in hanging out in bars and partying on the weekend and they didn't. A couple weren't interested in activities that didn't end in getting drunk. So the relationships ended. 

But other relationship issues are a reflection of our fears and internal issues. When you're someone who wants to be liked and seeks affirmation, as I've been for a good part of my life, you naturally attract those who take advantage of you or who take you for granted. This person I saw was someone I had in my life for a very long time. She was someone who had a whole lot of good qualities. But she could also be cold and dismissive and, frankly, downright cruel sometimes. 

Looking back, I'd say I spent way more than a decade unsuccessfully trying to get our friendship back into a good place...walking on eggshells and absorbing negativity every step of the way. In retrospect, the relationship was more about earning her approval than it was about being in an actual friendship. And that's the way she worked all her deeper relationships—part seeing how far she could push before you rejected her and part acting superior and dismissive. 

Because I had known her for a long time, I understood what made her the way she was. I don't mean to make her sound like an awful person that nobody would like. She had deep pains that, I guess, because I could understand them, I often overlooked. But the other side to her was that she was funny and smart. She was a good person to talk to, because she was very insightful. And for as thoughtless and selfish as she could be in many ways, she could also be thoughtful and generous in others. 

Anyway, seeing her made me think a lot of things. First, when I've seen "ghosts from the past" before, I've felt very anxious esteem has waned at the sight of them. None of that happened when saw her.  I didn't really feel inclined to take the opportunity to talk to her, but I also didn't feel anything negative toward her. After discovering that she had married since the last time we talked, I felt "well, good for her", followed by a twinge of "I feel sorry for that guy." But who knows what's she learned since last I saw her? After assimilating everything, I decided to stick with "well, good for her. I hope she's happy and learning and growing." I was glad to see that, while they wavered momentarily, my internal attitudes toward the whole thing matched the kind of person I project out into the world. 

The other thing I thought about was something she said to me a long time ago. She said that when I first meet people, I allow them liberties and/or I try harder than normal. Then when the relationship gets on, I don't like the liberties they take or expectations they have...liberties and expectations that I allowed them to believe were ok. I've thought of that many times since then. It's true. It was true about my friendship with her. And it's true about a whole lot of other friendships that have come and gone. 

So that, in turn, got me thinking of why I do be liked and affirmed. And it also got me thinking of how my defense is to eventually end the relationship, feeling taken advantage of by the liberties I allowed them to take. 

This is something I feel like I've stopped doing somewhere along the line. I feel like today my "defense" is to stop taking *myself* for granted in the first place. Because if I respect myself, then respect from others will follow. Today I have people in my life who like me and appreciate me for who I am. I don't have to "try harder" to earn their respect and affection. Nor am I afraid of losing their friendship for the same thing I've lost friendships for in the past. 

I've learned lessons, as is my intention to do, with each relationship I've left along the roadway as I've walked my path. And I feel like in the past couple of months so many "tests", big and small, have come into my life to tempt me, cajole me or otherwise measure how serious I am about not falling into the same traps I've fallen into in the past. And other things have come along to show me how much I've changed. I have to say, I'm quite pleased with the results of all of this. 

Which brings us to today's Rune Card, Ash. It's all about the defenses we put up around us. The facades we erect to capture another's favor. The ways we respond to dismissive behavior from those around us. The way we project ourselves out into the world. Ash is a wood that grows quickly. And when it's cut back, it produces that much more wood with which to build spears and fences and walls. 

When we cut back in our own lives, we do the same thing. And not just when we cut back friends or habits or other external things...that doesn't address the root of the issue, only the symptoms. It's when we cut back internally, shedding the fears and issues that others reflect back to us—the crap that made us attract those situations in the first place—that we produce the kind of materials within that can not only give us stronger defenses, but also make the need for those defenses moot.