I used to think the best person was the one who sacrificed the most.
That the key to being in relationship with another was creating peace through compromising myself. I learned this in a visceral way, as the survival technique of a very young boy. I don’t believe that anymore; I’ve had a thorough re-wiring. I learned that if I abdicated too often, I was missing an essential ingredient in the relationship recipe—a good relationship with myself.
Peter and Ronnie are two wonderful friends of mine and an example of success in relationship. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years by their example and the things they have introduced me to. Years ago, I commented to Ronnie how impressed I was with all the volunteering and other kinds of help she did in the community. She replied that she was simply doing what she enjoyed—she was just having a good time.
This began an inner shift away from a belief that I was good when I sacrificed myself and that I was bad, or at least simply selfish, when I did things to please myself. I began to understand that all true benefits are mutual.
Years ago I was introduced to the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the pioneer psychiatrist, by Peter, Ronnie’s husband, and I participated in three workshops of her approach to healing in the 90s. It was there that I learned about power in relationships and the different ways we deal with the pain we carry around inside. We can unleash it on others and be a perpetrator or we can turn the pain back on ourselves and be a victim.
Neither of these approaches is truly powerful or a healthy foundation for a relationship and yet most of us, to one degree or another, use these strategies as an unconscious default position.
I’ve often just done what was expected to keep the peace or please someone, which is a fine thing to do in sparse amounts and in a conscious, deliberate way. But it can become toxic to a relationship when it is used too often. When I compromise my inner self, a restlessness rises and increases as my unexpressed needs pile up.
I make myself the victim.
I’ve directed my anger and indignation at another as a way of avoiding looking at what that person was mirroring back to me. What I can’t stand in others is often what I can’t stand in myself, but haven’t faced. I ease the pain by dumping it on another, as a perpetrator.
“All true benefits are mutual” has become a reminder me that there is a third way.
I don’t always know how my actions may affect another. I’ve hurt others and been hurt by others, who could say this wasn’t true of themselves? But I need to act with as much self-awareness of my motivations and rise up out of my primal dog-eat-dog wiring, to avoid unloading my pain on another and at the same time not sacrifice what is true for myself.
Reciprocity is a universal law of relationship. And relationship is the razor’s edge of spiritual life. I believe that true growth and service come from knowing and honoring my inner self, recognizing my spiritual and other gifts and letting that flow out of me into my relationship with others.
There is a trust and surrender in relationship, as I bring out my whole self and show you who I am. To discover that you love me anyway. When I say “I love you” there is an I and there is a you.
And somehow I still feel like I’m getting the better end of the deal.
Anthony McMorran is a massage therapist, yoga practitioner, spiritual counselor and firm believer in the beauty and power of each individual soul. He believes we’re truly all in it together as we weave our way back to wholeness and a fully embodied life. Anthony is a resident of Sedona, AZ, where he practices massage therapy. He is available for I Ching and spiritual consultations via Skype. Connect with him on www.kandahealing.com, www.sedonamobilemassage.com
or on Skype (username: deadready.)
Editor: Malin Bergman
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